So, you are expecting a BABY! And you already have a dog. Dog and Baby in the same house. Can they really live together?
It is reasonable that you may feel anxious about this new situation and wonder what you should do to prepare your dog for the new family member. Maybe some relatives have already started mumbling something about "getting rid" of the dog... Is it possible they could be right?
The truth is that all of you can live safely under the same roof!
baby taking care of another baby..."
No words needed! Of course, dog and baby can live safely together...
photo submitted by our visitor Pam, from Lincolnshire
However, just like all major changes in life - and the arrival of an newborn is a BIG CHANGE - this situation could be upsetting at first.
So, you’d better start preparing the ground as soon as possible.
The nine months of pregnancy is the time to fix any problem or unwanted habits your dog may have. Obedience training is always useful but when a dog and baby are involved it becomes absolutely essential. Your dog should know how to sit, stay, lie down or come every time you ask him or her to. Jumping on people is totally unacceptable. If she knows the commands but sometimes “forgets” them, that is not good enough and you should work harder. If you still don’t feel satisfied with the results it is best to ask for professional help. The last thing you’ll need when the baby comes is to worry about your dog’s behavior. So, invest some time and money now and you’ll thank yourself in a few months.
Make the dog get used to less attention from everyone before the baby arrives. If your dog is very attached to you, if you spend hours cuddling together now it's time to gradually reduce all the excess attention. Especially the mother, as the newborn will keep her really busy. So give your dog the opportunity to adapt and make the transition to the new situation as smoothly as possible.
If there will be any adjustments to your dog’s daily routine, try to establish these changes step by step. Let's say that the mother used to walk the dog at 5 pm everyday but the father, who'll be walking the dog when the baby comes, returns home at 7. Start by making small changes. During the first week go out at 5:15, a few days later make that 5:30. Go on until the dog gets used to the new schedule.
Do I need to underline the importance of proper health care? The baby’s immune system is very sensitive, so make sure your dog is up to date with vaccinations and free from ticks or fleas, before the baby arrives. Arrange an appointment with your vet and check if something else has to be done.
While the mother and the baby are still in the hospital, introduce the dog to the baby’s scent. Bring one of the baby’s blankets or other cloth to the house. Ask the dog to sniff the item from a distance while you are holding it. Don’t allow him/her to come closer. This exercise helps you transmit the message you want. "I’m bringing this new scent to the house. You have to respect it".
There will be also other scents to fill your home as soon as the baby arrives. Baby oil, baby powder, milk, dirty diapers. Give your dog the opportunity to get accustomed to these new strange odors.
Expose your dog to baby sounds. The dog might find a crying baby strange and react negatively. Barking, whining, running towards the source of the noise, everything is possible. And you Don’t Want any of that!
Use recorded baby sounds for pets. You can buy a dog training CD or MP3 with baby sounds and training advice at a very reasonable price. Play these sounds in your house 2-3 months before the baby comes. For better results you can also hold a baby doll in your arms. See how the dog reacts and correct any unwanted behavior.
When the mother and the baby arrive at home, someone else should hold the baby while the mother goes first, alone, to greet the dog. She has been missing for days so the dog can become really excited seeing her. Later, when the dog is calm and relaxed, baby and dog can be introduced to each other.
When the dog sees your infant for the very first time it is better to have him/her on the lease and in a sit or down command. Allow the dog to sniff the baby from a respectful distance. There is no need to come very close, your dog has a very strong sense of smell. After a few days you can allow her to get closer to the baby. Monitor your dog's reactions. You'll let the dog come very close to the baby only when you feel 100% sure about it.
Make sure that you are in a calm and positive state of mine. If you are felling anxious about the dog being near the baby your dog will sense that immediately.
Dog and baby should be together only when an adult member of the family is present. NEVER leave your baby and dog unsupervised.
Establish boundaries.The dog should be kept away from the baby’s room.
Teach your dog to spend some time alone. If you need to restrict the dog to a room remember to close the door safely. A dog can easily push a door left half-opened.
Buy a dog gate that is appropriate for your house and your dog’s size. It is a valuable tool that will help you in case you need to keep dog and baby away from each other.
Teach your dog the difference between his toys and the baby’s toys.
Don’t allow the dog to lick the baby’s face. You can never know what the dog had been licking just minutes before.
NEVER tie the dog’s lease to the baby’s pram.
The arrival of a baby should bring joy and happiness to the whole family. Dogs included.
So please don’t forget about them. You used to call her "my baby" remember?
Dog and baby might seem like a challenging situation at first. Good preparation, training, patience and persistence is the key to success. A safe home for both your baby and dog, full of joy and happy moments.