Is Your Dog Ready for a Baby?
Just because your dog is friendly, it doesn’t mean they will joyfully welcome your new baby. I work with a lot of people who bring home a new baby and discover their dog is very unhappy with the new addition.
From the dog’s perspective, this is a big change in their routine. There’s often a change in exercise habits, less on-demand attention and usually an invasion of their space in a very different way. These changes may last the rest of the dog’s life and, as children mature, things continue to change over several years. That’s a very big adjustment for the family dog.
Ideally, start preparing your dog before baby arrives.
Pulling on leash, barking, destructive behaviour, house soiling, etc. will be even more challenging with a newborn baby.
• Socialize your dog to the sights and sounds of children.
Even if you did this as a puppy, go back to basics and do it again. Choose appropriate distances and let your dog watch and listen to children of various ages running, playing, yelling, and behaving like children. Repeat this exposure over many days and times of day. Give your dog lots of treats for watching. Assess and address your dog’s comfort level.
Get your dog used to the new smells (lotions and powders) and new sounds (i.e., voices through a baby monitor) associated with the new set up for baby. If your dog’s usual resting places or access to them will change, put that in place well before baby arrives.
Get your dog used to the areas he can and can’t access when you’re focused on baby and put the new routine in place as soon as possible.
Start walking your dog with an empty stroller so both of you can figure out how this is going to work. If you need to train your dog to walk on both sides or a different side than they’re used to, now is the time to practice.
Your dog needs a space children can’t access. Ensure it’s an area your dog can easily get to when they want, has water, toys, and a comfortable place to settle.
These tips are intended to help your dog acclimate to this life change and ensure they don’t associate the changes with the baby. On that note, tempting as it may be, don’t shower your dog with attention and affection when baby is asleep and out of sight. Your dog can learn that the baby’s presence predicts the loss of all these things – potentially building some unintended resentment towards baby.
Important: If your dog has serious issues like guarding things, reactivity towards dogs or people, or difficulty being touched and handled, these can become more serious problems with a child in your home. Hire an experienced professional who uses positive training methods to help. For an expanded version of this article, read “Ready for Baby?” on my Blog at dogpartners.ca.