Plan, Plan, Plan
It is important to remember that most dogs that have lived with their owners without any children around will be used to being the centre of attention. Therefore, parents who are expecting a baby should plan and prepare both themselves and their dog for their new addition to the family. Once a loud, high-pitched crying baby enters the household, it will only be natural for a dog to be confused, if not at little put out at receiving less attention.
So what steps can be taken to ensure that dogs and babies can live together safely?
To Do Before Baby’s Arrival
Make sure that your dog has a basic understanding of good behaviour. It is best to make sure that they obey commands and can maintain this level of obedience. If your dog has behavioural issues then it is advisable to take them to dog training classes or a dog behaviourist so that any bad habits such as jumping-up or ignoring commands are stopped.
If your dog is the only pet in your household and is used to having lots of attention, then try to start placing boundaries between the animal and yourself by ignoring them and leaving them on their own for short periods of time each day. This will help to ensure that the dog is used to the amount of attention it will be getting once the baby comes home. In addition, start to keep your dog out of the rooms that he or she will not be allowed in once the baby comes home, especially the room the baby is going to be sleeping in.
It is a good idea to put in place the changes that bringing a baby home will produce, that way your dog will already be used to the different sounds and interactions. Get a recording of a baby crying and start to play it around the house. Also, when taking your dog for a walk push a pram along with you and teach him/her to be mindful of it. It can even help to bring home a doll and treat it as you would your new-born baby by cuddling it and talking to it. Introduce toys, high-chairs, cots and any other thing that will be located in and around your household once your baby has been born. Teach your dog to be mindful of (or in some cases, keep away from) these things.
To Do When Baby is Home
Don’t Make Too Much of a Fuss
Try not to make too much of a fuss around the baby when you first bring him/her home. Let your dog gradually make gentle, calm approaches towards you and the baby allowing your dog to gain an understanding that the baby is fragile. Do not shout, scold or be aggressive towards the dog if he or she approaches in the wrong way. Associate the baby with nice things giving your dog treats or lots of praise when in close proximity of the baby.
Stimulation for Your Dog
Both mental and physical stimulation is essential in keeping your dog happy. Make sure that your dog has lots of things to do so that he/she doesn’t get bored easily when you are spending time with your baby. It can also help to take extra-long walks to help keep your dog settled; after all, a tired dog is a happy dog.
Safety and Supervision
Safety is an aspect of this whole process that is vital. Under no circumstances should you ever leave your baby alone with your dog. It is also not advisable to leave your baby on the floor with your dog as it leaves the baby extremely vulnerable should the dog get freaked out by the sounds that the baby is making.
Measure of Success
If your dog hasn’t settled and is still behaving badly after a few days of your baby being home, then it is best to consult your vet immediately so that he or she can refer you to a dog behaviour specialist.