TIPS TO HELP YOUR PET WHEN BABY COMES
Socialize your dog with babies and small children as soon and as often as possible. Invite your brave friends with newborns over to meet your dog. This will help him get accustomed to some of the sights, smells, and activities associated with babies that he’ll be experiencing in the months to come.
Let your dog check out the baby’s room so that he can get used to the new furniture, toys, clothes, etc.
Buy a baby-sized doll or teddy bear and carry it around in your arms like you would the real thing. Talk to this “baby” and fuss over it so that your dog realizes that the thing you’re holding is something important.
Buy a couple of your dog’s favorite toys and put them away until you bring baby home. If your dog gets too excited when he first meets the baby, give him the toys to distract him. Also, by presenting him with these gifts, you’ll make the baby’s arrival a happy experience for him and help him learn that the baby’s presence is a positive thing.
Arrange for someone to care for your dog in your home while you’re in the hospital. It’s important to keep your pet’s schedule as close to normal as possible (same feeding times, same walking schedule, etc.) to avoid unnecessarily stressing him out.
When the Baby Arrives
While you’re still in the hospital, have someone bring something of the baby’s home for the dog to smell (e.g., a blanket, shirt, or diaper). This way, when you first bring the baby home, it won’t be totally unfamiliar to the dog.
Make sure that you introduce your dog to the baby. Let him lick the baby’s face and hands if you like but never paw at it or push it with its nose. This helps establish the baby as a new member of your pack. If you try to exclude your dog from the baby, you may unknowingly teach him that your new arrival is an “intruder.” Thinking that he is protecting the established pack members, your dog may attack the infant.
Devote the same amount of time and attention, if not more, to your dog as you did before the baby came. A neglected pet may revert to immature destructive behavior because, in his eyes, negative attention is better than no attention at all.
Include the dog in as many family activities as possible. If you’re taking the baby out in its stroller, bring the dog along for the walk. If you have any doubts about your ability to handle both dog and baby at the same time, ask another individual to walk the dog with you.
Above all, never leave your baby unattended with your dog, no matter how well-trained he is or how good of a temperament he has. There is always the danger of suffocation if the dog decided to lie down on or near the baby, and the unpredictable actions of a newborn could easily startle the dog, causing him to bite in self-defense.
The HSUS promotes a CD of crying babies. It is a very good tool for use with some behavior modification before the baby comes. The CD is called “Preparing Fido” . The last cut on the CD is 14 minutes of a screaming baby. Check it out.
- Get your dog accustomed to rough handling – touch and pull – desensitize to touch
- Get your dog accustomed to having you (and eventually children) around the food bowl by walking by when your dog is eating and dropping something yummy and delicious into the food bowl. When the child is a toddler, have the child drop goodies into the dog’s food bowl.
- Teach your dog to Kiss – put peanut butter or cream cheese on your hand – let your dog lick the delicious goop off of your hand while you say the verbal, kiss.
- In 30 seconds, see how many items of clothing you can put on your dog. This is to desensitize the dog to touch.
TO PREPRARE PET DOGS FOR A NEW BABY
- Review and firm up Obedience exercises Practice cues in any position, sitting back on the couch, laying in the bed, sitting on the floor etc. Remember, dogs don’t generalize. Remember to be consistent with the cues.
- Socialize the dog around children in a positive and controlled environment.
- Observe and become aware of how your dogs seeks or solicits attention from you. If the dog bumps, paws or jumps work on extinguishing those attention seeking behaviors and replace them with appropriate sitting politely behavior.
- Know you dog’s sensitivities to touch, noise, and motion.
- Begin a baby schedule that has varied feeding times for the dogs. Create a dog zone or crating times. Prepare the dog for being crated or in the dog zone so he will be better equipped to deal with being behind a boundary during busy baby times. Vary your exercise routines. Ignore attention seeking behavior. The dog needs to become used to not gaining your attention every time he solicits it.
- Allow the dog to become comfortable with the baby equipment and teach him behaviors you want around the equipment vs. what you do not want. Doing this ahead will make a world of difference.
- Use the baby’s carrier and put a teddy bear or baby doll in it to get used to the feeling of what it will be like moving around with the child attached to you. Work with your dog while you are wearing this.
- Walk the dog with an empty baby stroller with some weight in it (baby doll or teddy bear) so you will keep a feel for this and see what needs to be worked on.
- Use a CD of baby noises to introduce and create a positive experience prior to the baby’s arrival.
- Get the smells of baby lotion and put it on the baby carrier, car seat, etc. and the teddy bear or baby doll you are carrying in the sling. Use the same lotion and put it on the baby’s clothing so the dog can become familiar with it.
- Have Dad bring home a blanket with the baby’s scent on it. The blanket can go into the car seat, swing, sling etc.
- Plan a good and safe spot for diapers. Dirty diapers are irresistible to dogs!
Protocol for Introducing a New Baby and a Pet
(courtesy of the ever-lovely Dr. Karen Overall) Overall KL: Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals, Mosby, 454-456, 1997.
The addition of a new baby to a household can upset the social environment of that household and can upset the pets in the household. Steps can be taken to greatly reduce the probability of this happening by following the following instructions below. These instructions are primarily designed for two-parent families. However, it is possible to implement most of the instructions if only one parent is available; notations about this have been made throughout. Please remember that no animal should be left alone unsupervised with an infant for any reason. This is not because most animals are innately aggressive towards infants, but rather because no infant would be capable of pushing an animal away if that animal cuddles up to them either for love or for heat. Until the child is old enough to behave absolutely appropriately with the pet (and that could be as old as 10 years of age), do not let children interact alone with the pets until you know how they will res pond in those circumstances. This protects both the child and the pet.
Before the baby comes, get the pet used to a regular schedule that you believe is realistic and that will be kept when the infant is present. Start the feeding and walking schedule that the animal will experience once the infant comes. This schedule will probably be radically different from the current schedule, and it is best that they do not experience all the changes at once when the baby arrives. Include in the schedule a 5- to 10-minute period daily when you will attend only to the pet’s needs. This period will represent its quality time and can occur either in one bout or in two. During this time, pet the animal, groom it, scratch it, play with toys, talk to it, massage it, and so on. Maintain the schedule no matter what, and make it one that can be implemented in the presence of the infant. This may necessitate setting an alarm clock 5 minutes earlier or agreeing that even if a baby cries at some point, you will not interrupt the interaction with the pet during those periods if the baby is not overly distressed and if the pet is not distressed by the child’s cries. You might also find that this is a time you can set aside for you to relax; the grooming, massage, and conversation with the pet will help you relax. Be realistic and do not feel guilty. Five or 10 minutes of concentrated attention is probably more time than you give the animal as a block now. Although everybody will have to adjust to an infant’s schedule, this is one way that you can tell the animal that it is still important to you and it counts. Realize that if you have multiple pets, each will need at least 5 minutes of undivided attention each day. If you have pets that get along particularly well with each other, you can certainly team them up to play with or talk to them, but remember that the more animals you have, the more difficult it will be to give them all of the things that they need.
Start the dog on a leash-walking schedule that you anticipate can be maintained with a baby. Make your schedule realistic and implement it before the arrival of the child. It would be preferable if the schedule changes could be made as early as possible before the arrival of the child. This is a good time to consider changing the mechanism you use to walk your dog. If you are using a choke collar or a regular buckle collar and the dog does not behave properly instantaneously, now is the time to teach the dog to walk in a head halter (either a Halti or, preferably, a Gentle Leader Promise System Canine Head Collar) or teach it to walk on a no-pull harness (Lupi or Sporn harness). This is the time to get the pet under control so that you are able to take the dog with you everywhere you go with the baby where the dogs are welcome, and you want the dog to behave well. In addition, you do not want to struggle with a baby in a backpack or in a stroller and a dog that is pulling. That is a potentially dangerous scenario that is potentially injurious for all three of you. You may want the protection of the dog, the company of the dog, and the necessary exercise for the dog when you are with the baby. A well-controlled dog will give you this. In addition, if you are unable to take the dog everywhere you take the baby, the dog will learn that the baby has displaced it in that role in the family. Although it is inappropriate to use terms such as jealousy when discussing the manner in which the pet treats the baby, any dog or cat will realize that it is not getting the same amount of attention. Pets will also realize that this attention has been transferred to another individual. This phenomenon could then promote attention-seeking behaviors that are designed to be competitive with the attention the infant is now getting. T he more often you can exercise the dog (or cat, if the cat enjoys the exercise) with the child, the better everybody’s relationship will be. As soon as you learn that an infant will be arriving, obtain and learn to use a device such as the Gentle Leader Promise System Canine Head Collar, a Halti, or a no-pull harness.
Again, before the baby arrives, allow the pet to explore the baby’s sleeping and diaper changing area. For the same reasons discussed previously, you do not with to wholly exclude the dog from every place the baby will be. These areas will provide smells that are interesting to the dog or cat. Let the dog or cat become familiar with them. You will be using baby powder, lotions, diapers, and baby objects before you have the baby. Let the dog or cat become accustomed to these by sniffing and even pawing or nosing at them.
If the dog or cat tries to drag any baby items off, correct it by telling it “No” and asking the animal to relinquish the object. If you are unable to get the dog to relinquish the object, now is the time to start teaching the dog more appropriate manners, such as “sit,” “stay,” “drop,” “down,” “take it,” and “drop it.” If your dog cannot do these before the arrival of the baby, you will have serious management problems. Now is the time, when you have some time, to address them. It is insufficient to say that your dog has been to an obedience class if the dog still does not respond to you instantaneously for a vocal command. Mechanisms for teaching dogs these types of behaviors are discussed in the “Protocol for Deference: Basic Program” and ” Protocol for Relaxation: Behavior Modification Tier 1.”
Do not let the pet make a habit of sleeping in or on any of the baby’s furniture. It will only seem like a further correction when you do not allow the pet to do so once the baby arrives. Do let the animal become familiar with the area.
If your pet has had toys that are stuffed animals that may look just like infant or baby toys, expect that the pet will think that it can play with the baby’s toys. If you are willing to wash these, there is nothing wrong from a health standpoint; however, the big problem will be that the dog may round up and take all of the infant’s toys. As the baby ages, the dog may drag the toys from the baby’s hand. Babies can be unintentionally, but tragically, injured under such circumstances. It may be preferable to shift the dog to toys that do not closely resemble the toys the baby may have. Such toys can have different scents or different sounds associated with them. If your dog can “sit” and “stay” and take an object and “drop it” at your request now, you can use that behavior to teach both the baby and the dog how to interact appropriately with each other later in life.
When the baby is born, have your spouse (or whomever is caring for the pet at that time) take home some articles of clothing that the baby has used. This will teach the animal that these new clothing smells are part of its new repertoire, but also that there is an infant involved. Allow the pet to smell these items. Leave them around the house.
It is also best to make arrangements for the pet to be cared for in your home in advance of the arrival of the infant. Advance notice is good because the animal will be rushed around in a surprising manner, left with strangers, and shifted quickly from one place to another, only to return home to discover the infant. It is preferable to have the dog watched for in your home because this decreases the dog’s stress level. A dog, especially if it does not like being in a kennel or has never been kenneled, may become more anxious and fearful when removed to the kennel. The pet can learn to associate the advent of this fear and anxiety with the advent of the new arrival.
When the baby comes home, you will need help. Someone, whether or not he or she is your spouse, should hold the baby while you go in to greet the animals. You have been missing from the household while either having or going to meet the baby, and the pets will have missed you. You should be able to greet and pay attention to the animals without having to tell them to go away and without having to to risk them inadvertently knocking you over or scratching the baby. If you have a dog that jumps, the dog should be put in another room until everything is calm and you can get inside to greet it. You may want to introduce any jumping dogs or dogs that are difficult to control or exuberant to the rest of the family on a leash if it provides more control, but first you should greet the dog or cat exuberantly. Remember, you have been gone and that is potentially scary for pets. After the greeting process, the baby should be held by someone else and kept out of the way. When you are ready to start to introduce the pets to the new baby, harnesses and leashes can be very helpful. Introductions should only be begun once all pets are already quiet and calm and everything is back to a more normal situation. This could take 15 to 30 minutes. During this time the pets might be curious about the baby, but they must first calm down from the earlier rambunctious mode.
Once the initial pandemonium has ceased, you are ready to start formally introducing the pets to the new baby. Your spouse, or a friend who is helping you, should sit comfortably on the couch with the baby. You can then be responsible for controlling and monitoring the pet. The pet should be able to smell the baby and explore. Pets should be leashed or otherwise restrained in case they make any sudden aggressive (or even nonaggressive) movements toward the baby. If the pet is fearful of the baby, talk to the pet gently, rub it, massage it, and encourage it to smell the infant. Do not hold or dangle the child in front of the pet. This could cause the pet to lunge. It is a wholly inappropriate and potentially dangerous behavior. The animals and the baby will get used to each other on their own terms; certainly, any infant that is dangling over a pet is in an abnormal social circumstance. If you are alone, you can put a harness on the pet and tie the harness to solid, stationary pieces of furniture with a leash. If you do this, you can then sit down at a distance where the pet can sniff the infant but not lunge. You can still verbally reward the pet while enforcing this safe distance.
Remember to be calm at all times. Although one lick might be acceptable, you should be able to tell the animal to stop instantly. If the animal is unable to respond to a verbal correction, licking is not acceptable. If the animal hisses or growls at the infant, you must be able to verbally correct those behaviors. If not, take the animal and put it in another room until it is calm. As soon as it is calm, you can try this again in the same circumstances. Do not reassure the pets that it is “okay” and that “Mommy” and “Daddy” still love the pet; an aggressive behavior toward an infant is not okay. The animal must learn that if it wants favorable attention from you, it must behave in a favorable manner toward the newest addition of the family.
If you have trouble getting the animal to calm down or getting it to respond to a verbal correction (this might be particularly true with cats), you can try using a water pistol. Squirt the animal as it begins to hiss or look aggressive. Remember that cats that take showers will not respond quickly to water, and you may have to use a higher power water pistol or one that has a small amount or lemon juice or vinegar added to the water in it. Remember that the point of any correction is to startle the animal so that it aborts the behavior, and you can then reinforce a more appropriate behavior. The point of these corrections is not to terrify the animal. In fact, terrifying the animal or brutally punishing the pet will grossly misfire and will teach the animal that any time the infant is present horrible things happen. Corrections are best done in the first 30 seconds of the beginning of the behavioral sequence, and that behavioral sequence usually starts with a look. Cats’ eyes usually become huge, the ears are moved back, the hair is up, and the cat might arch its back, duck its neck and retract its lips or sound nasty. Please do not wait for a pounce or a swat to correct any animal.
When there is only one spouse at home with the infant during the first few weeks, pets should be restrained or confined in the presence of the infant. It is impossible for you to be sitting on the couch, ministering to a baby, and prevent a pet attack if the situation arises. The key is to avoid any aggression of any circumstances in which the pet might be unsure of what the appropriate behavior would be. If the pet is a dog, it can be leashed at a distance with either a head halter or a harness or, if the dog does not pull, a neck collar. The animal can still be close to the baby and the client can pet it, but the dog cannot lunge and reach the baby. If the dog is prone to run through baby gates, a new baby is a potent stimulus. If you are tying the animal, make sure that the full extent of the animal’s reach, including the extent of the neck and head, is at least one dog length away from the child. This is because you will invariably be nursing the baby, typing on a comp uter, and the fax machine and the doorbell will ring at the same time. Any dog that is problematic may wait for a moment when your guard is lowered to lunge at the baby. Cats are more difficult, but many cats adjust well to leashes and harnesses; otherwise, many cats do not object to being banished from the room for short periods of time.
If, after 3 weeks or so, the pet accepts the baby with no untoward behavior, it can be unleashed. Regardless, the pet still needs to be closely supervised and observed. It is best if one spouse tends to the pet while the other tends to the baby. It is important that if two people are to share caretaking duties and the responsibility for reinforcing appropriate behavior, that one person does not always reinforce the dog. Sharing and trading off the attention for the dog and the baby is critical for both people so that the dog learns to associate the warm, loving environment with everybody. For dogs that do not respond well to voice commands and for whom the baby is a strong stimulus, the dog should never be left alone with the child, even in passing, until the child can fend for himself or herself. In many cases that dog should not be alone with the child if only one adult is available until the dog can be taught to react more appropriately to the child. Please do not beli eve that a muzzle could protect an infant or a young child from damage from a dog. Muzzles may prevent bites, but they do not dissuade the dog from lunging and pushing on the child. Infants and young children are particularly susceptible to crush injuries and, in many cases, skulls have been fractured by a dog that lands on a child in play without the intention to do damage.
If the pets do not pose a hazard (tripping, falling, jumping, grabbing) and they are truly just being social, there is no reason, once they are accustomed to the new baby, that they cannot accompany the parent around the house and be with the baby while he or she is being changed, bathed, and so on. In fact, this helps facilitate the future interaction between the child and the pet and may help the child become a kinder, more humane individual by learning age-appropriate pet behavior. Regardless, any dog so treated should be very responsive to voice commands so that no struggle should ever ensue in getting the dog to comply with a desired behavior.
Under no circumstances should any pet be allowed to sleep in a room with an unattended infant or young child. Use a baby monitor, an intercom, or a room monitor, and close the door. Predatory tendencies are far less of a concern than is the fact that a dog or cat could inadvertently smother a child. The amount of guilt associated with a tragedy would be unbearable for both the new parent and for the pet.
If the pet is aggressive or frightened around the child, you should start exposing the pet to children very gradually. Go back to steps 5 and 6. Such pets must be supervised in all interactions with children. Remember that even muzzled animals can harm infants. Predatory aggression is the most common form of aggression shown by dogs to very young infants, whereas aggression caused by pain or fear is frequently associated with older children (18 to 36 months of age). These children are often uncoordinated and may inadvertently hurt a pet by their play or their ambulatory capabilities. Older pets that may be arthritic or that have painful hips or shoulders are particularly at risk, as are those with chronic ear conditions. These are areas that children frequently grab. Young children should be taught to treat pets gently: no pulling, no tugging, and no pounding on them. Again, this is especially important if the pet is old, ill, or arthritic because any dog that is in pain may use a bite as its only defense against a rambunctious child.
Finally, there has been a well-documented link between animal abuse and child abuse. Children who abuse animals will progress to abuse of other individuals and will abuse their own children in the future. In turn, many children who are abused will abuse pets. If your child has a problem complying with age-specific, appropriate, humane, and gentle handling conditions of pets, it could be that the child has a problem or has observed this behavior from friends. If so, this potential problem should be explored. On the very positive side, appropriate pet-child behavior can be a wonderful experience and can help make the children more humane and socially well-adjusted.
As appears in American Dog Owners’ Association, Inc.
You or your family is expecting a new baby; however, you already have a “child,” the family dog. The dog has been a member of the household since puppyhood and is very attached to you. He often attempts to wedge himself between you and visitors when the visitors get too close. He seems “jealous” of visitors and you are worried how he will react to the baby. Will he be depressed? Not eat? Sulk? Get destructive and spiteful? Are you wondering if these concerns are legitimate? What can be done to prevent problems before and after the new baby arrives?
Social and Parental Behaviors of Dogs
The nature of canids – wolves and dogs – is that of the family group. It is normally two dominant adults and related individuals of various ages. Usually only the two dominant adults breed, yet all members of the pack help to care for the mother and pups, bring meat back to the mother and pups, and guard the pups. Subordinate females may “baby-sit” and even help nurse the puppies. Domestic dogs do not commonly bring food back to a mother and pups but may guard a bitch during pregnancy and while she is lactating, as well as guard or watch over the puppies.
Pet dogs relate to you and other family members as if they were members of the family. Ideally, your baby will be accepted by the dog as an offspring included in this family unit. In fact, dogs are more likely to protect an infant from strangers or visitors than they are to be “jealous.”
Most problems that arise between a dog and child occur when the child reaches the crawling and walking stages, at about a year or so. Nonetheless, you should be aware that there is a potential for problems occurring and insure your baby is safe. The most serious potential problem is for your dog to fail to recognize the new baby as a human being that should be included in the family unit. Obviously, a baby will not be perceived as another dog. Also, since the baby does not look, smell, or sound like a “human being” to the dog if it is not familiar with infants, the dog may interpret the baby as prey.
Dogs’ Reactions to a Baby
Most dogs are curious about babies, especially if the dog has had little or no exposure to infants or a long time has elapsed since it has seen a baby. If you have seen your dog react to other babies, either in your home, on the street, or in other people’s homes, be aware of your dog’s typical reactions and take whatever precautions necessary. Most dogs adapt quickly and easily to the presence of a new baby. However, since the consequences can be so serious, assume that your dog will react negatively and take every safety precaution possible, regardless how your dog has reacted in previous encounters with babies. Babies can be accidentally hurt as a dog attempts to play with or investigate the infant. An extremely active dog, for example, can accidentally injure a baby while jumping up on the owner or cause an accident while running around. These types of problems can be avoided if your dog is obedience trained. Dogs with a history of aggression toward people require spec ial caution. An aggressive dog that reacts to visitors, mail carriers, and other dogs can injure a baby if the child happens to come between the dog and the object of its aggression. Dogs that become aggressive when approached while eating or in possession of a bone, toy, or other favorite item or that become aggressive if startled or when awakened require very close supervision in the presence of a baby.
The most potentially dangerous situations are predatory responses. Extra caution should be taken if your dog has a history of predatory behavior like chasing and/or killing small game, especially if it has been bred for this purpose. This tip has special importance if the dog has had little or no exposure to infants. It is also important for you to realize that exposure to and interaction with small children is not the same as exposure to and interaction with an infant. Just because your dog plays in a friendly, gentle manner with children, do not assume it will react the same way to a baby. Infants are very different from children. Children are usually, although not always, interpreted by dogs as people; infants may not be. Please understand that a few infants are severely injured by dogs each year and, in fact, some are killed. The number of infants killed by dogs is very small, not more than 10 per year throughout the entire United States, and, in contrast, many thousands of infants in the U.S. are victims of automobile accidents, burns, drowning, choking, suffocation, and poisoning. Although the risk is small, there is cause for concern about a dog’s reaction to your baby and precautions will help insure that your baby does not become a “statistic.”
Monitoring Your Dog’s Behavior
All interactions between your baby and dog should be monitored very carefully. This monitoring should continue until your dog is paying no attention to the infant or is completely friendly toward the baby. Never leave a baby or small child UNATTENDED with a dog for ANY REASON.
Help your dog learn that the baby belongs in your family by exposing the dog to the baby in a very gradual and controlled manner. The exposure should be positive so the dog does not associate unpleasant situations with the baby so the dog does not feel anxious or aggressive in the baby’s presence.
Introducing Dogs to Babies
The following suggestions should help your dog to adjust to your new baby:
- Getting Ready for the Arrival.
Preparations should begin months before the baby arrives. If your dog does not know how to sit, stay, lie down, or come when called, it should be taught to do so. If your dog already knows these commands but is unreliable, practice these obedience exercises with the dog until it is reliable. Even if you consider your dog “pretty good,” that may not be good enough and could lead to your having a false sense of security. Imagine how your dog, if excited, will react when you bring the baby home. Can you depend on it to reliably sit and stay or down and stay and not rush toward the baby? If you have had some experience training a dog, you might try obedience procedures at home. Otherwise, it would be best to take your dog to a good, humane training class. Your dog should associate the various obedience commands such as sit, stay, and come with pleasant experiences. Although your dog may need to be corrected occasionally, force methods should be avoided. After all, the goal is for the dog to like both the owner and the baby, not simply for it to obey because it is frightened or afraid of being punished. Once your dog learns the basic sit/stay and down/stay commands, you should continue to work these commands at home. You should start requiring that your dog sit/stay or down/stay as you do things that resemble “baby activities” around it.
For example, pick up a doll, cradle it, rock it, and walk back and forth. Periodically, reward the dog with tidbits, petting or praise for remaining in a sitting position while this is going on. The doll should also be wrapped in baby blankets and shown to the dog, which must learn to control itself and to refrain from moving. Because dogs respond with interest to strange sounds, it is a good idea to accustom your dog to the recorded sounds of a baby crying, babbling, or making other normal “baby” sounds. Ideally, if the opportunity is available, expose your dog – in a controlled manner to ensure the infants safety – to real babies of friends or neighbors. This procedure should be considered only if the dog is reliably trained and controllable. The dog should gradually be exposed to babies until it can remain relaxed in their presence. This may require several sessions.
If your baby is born in a hospital, your dog will remain at home. You can use this interval to familiarize your dog with the baby’s smell by bringing home blankets or clothing the baby has worn. (On the subject of diapers: It would behoove you to keep soiled diapers in a tightly closed container. One of the functions of a mother dog is to lick up the urine and feces of puppies to keep the sleeping area clean. Quite frequently, female dogs will ingest the feces of a human baby and may go to great lengths to clean up after the child, including raiding diaper buckets! This is not an abnormal behavior but a normal aspect of canine maternal behavior.)
- Bringing Your Baby Home
When mother and child come home from the hospital, it is best if mother greets the dog without the baby present. The baby should be held by another family member or, better still, put in another room while the mother and dog greet each other. This way, you can avoid reprimanding an excited dog that merely wants to greet the owner and that may jump at the baby in an attempt to get near the mother. Owners should allow some time for the dog to get used to the smells and sounds of the baby, which to it are the presence of another creature in the house. Later, when the level of excitement in the household has decreased and the dog appears relaxed, the baby and dog can be introduced to each other. One parent should attend to the baby and the other to the dog. The dog should be in a sit/stay or down/stay and on a leash. If there is any concern that the dog may leap at the baby, a halter or muzzle should be placed on the dog. (The dog should already be used to the muzzle prior to this introduction.) The dog should be allowed to see the baby from 10 to 15 feet away. Then either the dog or baby should be brought closer to the other, slowly, one foot at a time. If the dog remains calm and under control, it might be allowed to sniff the baby, again from a safe distance. If the dog is extremely excited, however, this progression should not be attempted. If the dog has a history of predatory or aggressive behaviors, it may take many introductions before dog and baby are close enough for the dog to investigate the baby closely.
Err on the side of caution when determining when your dog is ready to approach your baby close enough to actually sniff the baby. Over a period of days, however, your dog should be allowed to smell the baby up close. After several introductions, and when it is clear that the dog is not going to nip or lunge at the baby, you can allow your dog off the leash near your infant.
(This does not mean unsupervised visitation or that yo u should lay the child down for the dog to investigate it.) As a further precaution, the dog can continue to wear a comfortable muzzle when around the baby.
- The First Several Days and Thereafter
Remember, your dog should not have unsupervised access to your baby – EVER. You will want to be especially careful when the baby is screaming, crying, or waving its arms and legs.
These actions can elicit a predatory, investigatory, or play-leap reaction by the dog toward the infant. It is wiser to either put the dog in another room or put the dog in a down/stay several feet away from the baby. Unfortunately, dogs frequently begin to “act up” after a new baby arrives. It is unclear whether these behaviors occur because of “jealousy” or simply because the dog is being deprived of its usual and expected amount of social attention and affection. You will want to start reducing the attention that you give your dog 2 or 3 months prior to the baby’s arrival. This will help the dog accept that it is no longer the “focus” of your attention. When the baby comes home, you should ensure that your dog gets sufficient attention. One tip that can be helpful is that whenever you begin to do something with you baby, you can put the dog in a sit/stay and periodically reward it with a tidbit. This procedure allows the dog to associate pleasant experiences with the baby and gives the dog extra attention when the baby is present. If after the first several days you are still concerned that your dog might harm your baby, a screen door or gate could be fastened at the entrance to the child’s room. This precaution allows you to hear the baby but eliminates your dog’s access to the room. Also, keep in mind when you take your infant to visit friends or relatives that the dogs encountered there may not be accustomed to an infant in their homes. Baby-sitters should be cautioned not to bring dogs with them to the home of an infant. Tragic incidents have occured when adults mistakenly believed a dog was in the backyard or securely confined away from a baby.
Dogs may push open doors and actively investigate the strange sounds and odors of an infant.
As a new parent, although you should be aware of potential problems, you should not worry excessively about the potential problem of your dog injuring your infant. Most dogs adjust to new babies easily, quietly and without incident. If you are observant of your dog’s behavior, and take precautions to introduce dog and baby to each other gradually while your dog is under control, you should be able to avoid accidents or troublesome incidents.
Reprinted by Shaggeypaws
For years, your big puppy was your only baby and he received your undivided love and attention. Soon he’ll have to share it with another. You’re expecting a baby and, naturally, you’re concerned about how your dog and child will get along. How will your dog react to this new arrival in his home? Will he be jealous of the baby or, worse, aggressive towards it? Or will he hopefully sense the importance that the infant has in your “pack” and act as a gentle and loyal protector?
Here are a few tips to help you help your dog through the difficult transition from “only child” to “older sibling.”
Before the Baby is Born
- Socialize your dog with babies and small children as soon and as often as possible. Invite your brave friends with newborns over to meet your dog. This will help him get accustomed to some of the sights, smells, and activities associated with babies that he’ll be experiencing in the months to come.
- Let your dog check out the baby’s room so that he can get used to the new furniture, toys, clothes, etc.
- Buy a baby-sized doll or teddy bear and carry it around in your arms like you would the real thing. Talk to this “baby” and fuss over it so that your dog realizes that the thing you’re holding is something important.
- Buy a couple of your dog’s favorite toys and put them away until you bring baby home. If your dog gets too excited when he first meets the baby, give him the toys to distract him. Also, by presenting him with these gifts, you’ll make the baby’s arrival a happy experience for him and help him learn that the baby’s presence is a positive thing.
- Arrange for someone to care for your dog in your home while you’re in the hospital. It’s important to keep your pet’s schedule as close to normal as possible (same feeding times, same walking schedule, etc.) to avoid unnecessarily stressing him out.
When the Baby Arrives
- While you’re still in the hospital, have someone bring something of the baby’s home for the dog to smell (e.g., a blanket, shirt, or diaper). This way, when you first bring the baby home, it won’t be totally unfamiliar to the dog.
- Make sure that you introduce your dog to the baby. Let him lick the baby’s face and hands if you like but never paw at it or push it with its nose. This helps establish the baby as a new member of your pack. If you try to exclude your dog from the baby, you may unknowingly teach him that your new arrival is an “intruder.” Thinking that he is protecting the established pack members, your dog may attack the infant.
- Devote the same amount of time and attention, if not more, to your dog as you did before the baby came. A neglected pet may revert to immature destructive behavior because, in his eyes, negative attention is better than no attention at all.
- Include the dog in as many family activities as possible. If you’re taking the baby out in its stroller, bring the dog along for the walk. If you have any doubts about your ability to handle both dog and baby at the same time, ask another individual to walk the dog with you.
Above all, never leave your baby unattended with your dog, no matter how well-trained he is or how good of a temperament he has. There is always the danger of suffocation if the dog decided to lie down on or near the baby, and the unpredictable actions of a newborn could easily startle the dog, causing him to bite in self-defense.
– Moe Schober
Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants), Professional Member APDT, (Association of Pet Dog Trainers), AKC Canine Good Citizenship Evaluator, Animal Behavioral College Mentor