Sometimes, compassionate people are so eager to help a dog in a shelter or rescue situation, they just don’t have on their thinking caps.
The call yesterday was from a first-time mom with a new baby. Two weeks before her due date, mom goes with a friend (who wanted a kitten) to a shelter. It was there that mom saw a very active dog with a behavioral history. She adopted the dog and said he was “trouble from the start.” Nothing was done to prepare the dog for the baby because “everything was so hectic.” Now the dog is nipping at the baby. Here come the limiting conditions….mom had a c-section, is not doing well and needs plenty of rest during the day. She can’t have a 50-lbs. dog pulling her on the leash. Dad is not in the picture. There is no neighbor or relative who could work with the dog. She doesn’t have the money to pay a trainer to work with the dog. The mom was calling to ask for magic.
In a more ideal world, to introduce a new baby to a family dog, here are seven simple steps:
Ideally, as soon as parents-to-be know that a baby will be coming into the family, if it hasn’t been done before, the canine family member will be provided with some training. Behaviors such as sit, down, stay, and “back up” are very helpful when it comes to managing a dog around new infants.
- Getting to Know You
When the baby arrives in the hospital, before coming home, send home a blanket or shirt from the baby so that the dog can become familiar with the baby’s scent.
- Introduce the Dog to Baby Items
The baby will have new swings, rocking seats, and toys. As soon as possible, show the dog the new items so that he has seen the swing move before there is a baby in it, and he knows what it means when you say “Leave it!” when it comes to baby toys.
- Get Ready for Crying
If your dog is sound sensitive and you think he may be nervous when the baby cries, you can expose him to crying baby sounds via a CD. Starting with quieter cries, you can gradually crank up the sound until your dog is a pro at listening to a wailing baby. See www.preparingfido.com for a baby-sounds CD.
- Dog Meets Baby
Your pup will probably be curious and anxious to meet the new member of his family. To make sure he doesn’t jump on you when you come home from the hospital, it is a good idea for you to get in the room and be sitting when the dog comes in to meet the baby for the first time. If you have a very active dog, have a helper bring him into the room on a leash. Praise the dog for being calm and well-behaved.
- Maintain the Dog’s Exercise and Play Routines
Whenever there is a new baby, it is common for all of the attention to be on the new infant. Make sure the canine member of your family still gets daily exercise and play sessions. This is extremely important for having a calm, mellow dog. If you just can’t do it all, consider getting a temporary personal assistant for the dog. There might be a neighborhood teenager who would be happy to take a dog for a walk and play with him.
- Supervise Dogs and Children
Finally, the AKC Canine Good Citizen Responsible Dog Owners Pledge advises that children and dogs should always be supervised when together. This applies to when the babies are infants and when they are preschoolers.