Babies, the saying goes, complete a household, make life worth living, and bring a sense of joy and vibrancy, hope and promise of a bright future. They also bring change in routine and a complete upheaval of lifestyle for others in the family. Older siblings might initially show resentment towards a new baby taking the spotlight away from what was once theirs: Your sole affection.
What about the canine variety in the family? Dogs need to acclimate with a period of adjustment, too. With a little bit of TLC and using the advice in this column, dogs will be howling rock a bye baby in no time.
A new routine will be established once baby comes home. Because dogs are creatures of habit, they’ll need time to adjust as well. Slowly decrease the amount of one-on-one time you spend with Fido. This doesn’t mean ignoring him or giving less of you. A sudden decrease in the amount of time spent with your dog once the baby arrives is likely to upset him more than if the change is gradual and over a period of time. Other family members can participate by spending time and engaging in pet-friendly activities with the dog. In this way, the dog is still getting attention and slowly getting used to your presence lessening.
Dogs who are jumpers or climbers need to have this behavior modified prior to the baby’s arrival. Install baby gates and barriers that allow Rover to see what is going on but prevents jumping. Don’t suddenly scold Fido, but work with him using techniques that teach proper behaviors. Positive reinforcement is key.
Invite friends and family members over who have a baby/infant to start your dog's adjustment process. The scents, sounds, and routines of having a baby can be establishing through these visits. Easing in and taking the time before baby’s arrival will make the entire process much smoother.
Try bringing a toy doll into the home, complete with realistic baby sounds, to help the dog adjust. Seeing you carry ‘something’ around and hearing cooing, crying, and a new voice before a baby enters the home can help with your dog’s adjustment to a new situation. When in doubt, think like the dog. How would you feel if your routine and world suddenly shifted without warning? Dogs are the same way. Sprinkle baby powder on your skin and allow the family dog to get used to new scents.
Whoever says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks didn’t see an animal behaviorist before saying so. Think about taking a class with your dog on how to humanely and safely control behaviors. Knowing what to do and how to react before baby enters the family will keep stress to a minimum.
Once the baby comes home, be sure to reward the dog for his patience and gentleness around baby. Have a small stash of treats in your pockets to show your gratitude. Give the reward in conjunction with both tactile (touch) and verbal reward. “Good boy, Max!” with a scratch behind the ears goes a long way in boosting a dog’s morale.
All family members should know how to prevent dog bites, even from the most loving of doggie family members. Crawling babies are curious. Children sometimes try to hug dogs. Dogs may not like this. Monitor behavior and teach children ground rules and dog safety issues early on. An ounce of prevention is definitely worth its weight in bronzed booties.
Both infant and dog toys are often bright, loud, squeaky, and elicit some sort of joyful reaction. In the wrong hands or teeth, this is a potential snap fest. Best advice? Don’t let it happen. Keep baby toys away from dogs and vice versa. Babies are curious. Even more so, walking toddlers are extra curious. Pulling on ears, tugging on tails, and tossing things at the dog are all no-no’s. Don’t allow baby to be in these situations and keep Rover out of harm’s way. Teach children to respect animals early on.
When you first return from the hospital, allow your significant other or someone else to enter the residence holding the baby. Dogs love to rejoice when their guardian arrives home. Allow him to rejoice without the baby in your arms. After a few minutes, then hold your new bundle of joy. Slow and steady always wins the race, especially when the reward is Fido's understanding and adjustment to a new family member.