September is national Baby Safety Month! If you have a dog and are expecting a baby, be sure to prepare your dog ahead of time. This can include dog insurance for financial peace of mind, and planning for the change in household dynamic.
Dogs can be confused and stressed when new parents suddenly shift their attention from them to the baby, and this often shows in unacceptable behaviors such as: jumping up; stealing things that belong to the baby; going into the baby’s room; barking when the baby cries; becoming pushy when the mother is feeding the baby; or jumping on the stroller or pulling out in front of it.
In addition to checking with your family’s pediatrician, try the following to help prepare your dog for your new family member’s arrival:
1. Set new boundaries for the dog in your house. For safety reasons, you may want to keep your dog out of the baby’s room. Teach him this new boundary several weeks or even months ahead of time by setting up a baby gate in front of the baby’s room; correct the dog if he enters the room when the gate is open. Go in and out of the room regularly yourself.
2. Prepare your dog for changes in the daily household routine. Think about how your schedule will change when the baby arrives, and begin any changes that will affect your dog—such as how and when he is walked, fed or receives attention—in advance. Your dog will handle these changes better if they do not happen all at once.
Once your baby arrives, carefully arrange and monitor your dog’s interactions with your baby:
3. Make introductions as soon as you bring your baby home. Your dog will need to “touch scent” your baby to find out what it is. To do this, stand and securely hold your newborn up high, allowing your dog to sniff the baby’s bottom or feet while another adult controls your dog on a loosely held leash. If your dog misbehaves or is overly excited, correct him and move your dog away from the baby. Before trying to introduce them again, make sure your dog has settled down.
4. Allow frequent supervised visits by your dog. The more your dog and baby are together, the less stressed your dog will be. However, it is still the safest policy to NEVER leave your baby alone in a room with your dog. Even the gentlest dog may accidentally hurt your baby by trying to run, jump or play with him.
5. Teach your dog the difference between his toys and your baby’s. If you catch your dog chewing on something that belongs to your baby, interrupt him with a vocal correction. Then give your dog one of his chew toys and praise him when he takes it.
While it is normal for a dog to be possessive about his toys, food and space, it is never acceptable for him to growl or snap at you or your baby. If this happens, the situation needs immediate attention.
By following these guidelines and preparing your dog for your baby’s arrival ahead of time, you can make a gentle transition to having a new member of the household pack—and pave the way for a wonderful friendship between your dog and your new baby!
Liam Crowe is a Bark Busters USA Master Trainer & CEO
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