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Introducing your dog to a new baby

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For a long time our dog was the baby of the family.  Petted, played with, and adored.  She was Queen of the house, and knew it.  Then our daughter was born.  We love our dog, and so we made sure to prepare her well, both for her sake and the safety of our baby.  Now we all live in happy harmony, a family of four following the birth of our son, plus the dog.  It is tragic to read of dogs being given up or abandoned when a new baby arrives in the home.  It really doesn’t have to be that way, so here are some helpful pointers when introducing your dog to a new baby.

Before the Baby comes home

Preparing your dog ahead of the baby arriving is one of the most important things you can do.  They are smart animals, and will know something is afoot from your change of smell, and your change in behaviour.  The new things you buy for the nursery will also set off canine alarm bells.  Follow these steps before your baby comes home to help your dog make sense of the changes:

  • Ensure you are the pack leader, and that your dog knows it.  This is key to discipline for your dog, and will help her understand her place, and to establish an air of calm and good behaviour in her as the norm.
  • Bring the baby’s scent into the house on a piece of cloth from the hospital.  Keep a hold of it and invite your dog to sniff it.  This establishes the baby’s scent (and by default the baby himself) as your property, to be approached within boundaries that YOU set.
  • Set boundaries around the nursery.  In our home the dog isn’t allowed upstairs, so this was never an issue.  If your dog has had the right to roam, you need to draw new boundaries and train your dog to respect them before your baby comes home.  Banning all animals from the nursery itself is recommended.
  • Review your play, walk, feeding and general care routines for your dog.  Alter them if necessary to a rhythm that you can envisage working around your baby.  Dogs will resent the baby if it seems the perceived interloper is trying to muscle in on their time or space.
  • Consider the temperament of your dog, not the breed.  It’s true that some breeds are more naturally aggressive than others, but it’s the training and leadership that counts.  Be sure you can control your dog in any situation, whatever the breed.

After the birth

Taking the time to introduce your baby to the dog is crucial.  Before you begin, experts suggest that taking the dog for a long walk can help to reduce their natural energy and excitement, and make the introduction more calm and controlled.

After the walk, when you dog has got her breath back and had a drink, follow the psychology of the scent preparation point above.  Hold the baby, and invite your dog to come and say hello, but from a distance.dogs and new babies  Over the next few days, allow the dog a little closer each time, but be sure to retain control of the meeting, and lead your dog as appropriate, instructing her to back off if she becomes too excitable or gets too close.  In this way you help to establish the baby as further up the pack hierarchy than your dog, who will naturally then tend to be more submissive around him.

As your baby grows is it important to teach him how to behave around your dog.  Teach him to understand your dogs signals, and to respect her.  Help him learn that yanking her tail and poking her is inappropriate.  Never, under any circumstances, leave your baby alone in a room with your dog, no matter how placid your furry friend is.

Countless families have followed variations of these simple guidelines and have successfully integrated the new baby into the family without needing to abandon their dog.  In our house I swear the pooch now loves the company of the kids more than ours, but that may be to do with the endless snacks they keep sneaking to her under the table.  In any event she remains as important a part of our family as she ever was.  And that’s how it should be.  Being a dog owner is a responsibility not to be taken lightly, so give the dog a break, and help her welcome the newest member of her pack into the home safely.

 

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One Response to “Introducing your dog to a new baby”

  1. Miranda G

    Interesting read. When I was pregnant with my first child, Sara I used a book called Tell Your Dog You’re Pregnant: An essential guide for dog owners who are expecting a baby. It was really helpful and came with a CD of sounds. Max (my fur child!) took some time to get used to the sounds but the book helped on how to do it. It gave me advice on what changes will occur and how to prepare my Max for them. It also talked about the causes for aggression and why it might occur and how to avoid it. It is written by a vet behaviorist too so it cover health issues as well. Maybe that will help someone else!

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About Cally Worden

About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

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