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Preparing Your Dog for a New Baby
If you are planning to welcome a new baby into your family, you might be wondering how your dog would react to the new arrival. Dogs sometimes display signs of jealousy at the arrival of a new baby, leading the parents to surrender the dog to a shelter to avoid possible harm to the baby. However, many families have successfully introduced their newly-arrived baby to the family dog. Let’s see how to prepare your dog for your new baby.
To ensure a safe and happy welcoming process, you’ll need plenty of time and to take extreme care. There are two basic steps involved in ensuring that your dog behaves in an appropriate manner around your infant once you finally bring him or her home. The first step is to prepare your dog for your baby’s arrival and the second is introducing your baby to your dog.
Steps to prepare your dog for the baby’s arrival
Preparing your dog in advance for your baby’s arrival is important to help prevent jealousy and friction between your dog and your baby. Your dog will have become used to your pampering and attention; it’s natural to expect some jealousy to surface when your new baby becomes the center of attention.
Some quality time, a few extra treats and some precaution-taking can go a long way! You should find these tips useful:
1. A few months before your baby’s arrival, take your dog to your local Vet for a thorough checkup.
2. De-worm your dog before your baby arrives; parasites and worms can be harmful to your baby. Repeat at recommended intervals to keep your dog free of worms. If your dog has not been neutered or spayed, this will be a good time to get it done.
3. If you have friends who have infants, encourage them to visit you at home so your dog can become accustomed to babies. Supervise all interactions between dog and infant.
4. Allow your dog to become used to the new objects and smells that are associated with your baby. Let him explore the baby’s sleeping and changing areas, as well as related items such as diapers, lotions and powders.
For example, you can apply some baby powder or lotion to your hands and allow your dog to sample the new smell. Dogs depend on their sense of smell, so becoming familiar with the new baby smells will help them to understand that the baby is part of the family. If you can, allow your dog to smell a blanket or clothing that your baby has used, before you bring the baby home.
5. A few weeks before your baby is expected, accustom your dog to baby-related noises; for example, you can play a recording of a baby crying (find some on Amazon here). Rock the baby’s rocking horse or push the stroller back and forth a few times. Offer your dog a treat when he sees you do these things so they become positive experiences for him.
6. Don’t allow your dog to play with your baby’s toys or sleep on the baby’s furniture. Your dog should know that the furniture is out of bounds for him and he should respect it accordingly. Your dog could take a toy from your baby’s hand and injure the baby unintentionally. Provide toys for your dog that do not resemble babies’ toys.
7. If you decide not to allow your dog access to the baby’s room, you could install a removable gate or screen across the doorway. Your dog will still be able to see and hear what’s going on in the room so he will be more comfortable with the new baby noises and yet not feel so isolated from the rest of the family.
8. To help prepare your dog for the real thing, make use of a baby doll. Wrap one in a baby blanket and take it in the stroller when you walk your dog. To get him used to routine baby activities, such as diaper-changing and bathing, use the doll.
9. Finally, it is critically important that your dog understands that he is subject to you and your family (i.e., you and your family are alpha over him). This is to ensure that, should he show any signs of jealousy after the baby arrives home, you will be able to reprimand him.
Introducing your dog to your new baby
The actual introduction of your dog to your new baby is of the utmost importance. Quite often, the first few meetings can dictate how your dog responds to your baby on an ongoing basis. For this reason, you must undertake the introduction process slowly and correctly.
Useful tips for the first meeting
1. When the baby is brought home, let another person hold him or her while you greet your dog. Your dog will have missed you so it’s important that you give him some attention when you arrive home.
2. Greet your dog joyfully; present him with a new toy or treat to associate the baby with something positive. After your dog’s initial excitement has dissipated, you can start introducing him to the baby.
3. If you’re not sure of your dog’s reaction, restrain him or keep him on a leash during the introduction. Talk to him and encourage him to sniff the baby’s hands and feet and get a good look. If the dog is reluctant, don’t force him by pushing the baby in front of him. Allow him to explore the new arrival at his own pace. Patience is key!
Never leave your baby unsupervised with your dog. A baby is not capable of pushing an animal away and your dog may accidentally smother the child. A baby’s actions may scare the dog and cause it to bite in self-defense. If your dog reacts aggressively, put him into another room until he calms down, then try the introduction again.
4. Once the initial greeting is over, invite your dog to sit with you next to the baby. Reward him with treats for good behavior. Remember, you want him to view his association with the baby as a positive experience. Again, to avoid injury or anxiety, never force your dog to come close to the baby, and always supervise any interaction.
5. Your life will, no doubt, be turbulent caring for your new baby. However, try to keep your routines as regular as possible to help your dog adjust. Be sure to spend some one-on-one quality time with him each day – it will most likely help to relax you, too.
With appropriate training, adjustments and supervision, you, your new baby and your dog should be able to live together happily and safely as a (now larger) family.
For in-depth information on dog training techniques and how to deal with dog behavior problems (such as familiarizing your dog with children), check out Secrets to Dog Training. It’s a complete guidebook for dog owners – designed to fast-track your dog’s learning.
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