Three Dogs and Two Babies:
So You're Having a Baby...is your Dog Prepared?
Dogs and kids can be the best of friends, but this is a relationship that
is fostered by loving dog owners and doting parents, not something that
happens naturally. In reality: babies and toddlers would rather have you
all to themselves than share you with the four legged members of your
family. The dog on the other hand probably feels the same way- a bit
jealous and displaced. This doesn't have to remain your dog and baby's
impression of each other; with a little time, training and patience you
will find that your dog and baby will actually start to enjoy each other's
company and may even end up the best of friends.
You should begin training your dog to get use to sharing you with a
baby as soon as you know that you are pregnant. Many couples today delay
having children by at least a couple of years and often get a dog first.
Learning how to raise and train a puppy can be a wonderful experience and
enrich the lives of everyone involved. Couples often refer to the pup as
their first baby (which is fine if you remember that your puppy is still a
dog and has needs that are quite different from the human variety of
babies). If you are the type of dog owner who feels she has spoiled her
dog a bit and lives with some annoying behaviors that are going to
interfere with taking care of a baby, it is best to address those issues
now before the baby comes.
For instance, some couples report that their dog is suspicious of
strangers or children, barks at everything, mugs people at the door and is
constantly demanding attention if not given enough exercise. People
without young children may not see these issues as a problem but adding a
newborn (who later becomes a toddler and then a child) is going to
accentuate these problem areas, and may result in the couple finding it
difficult to live with a dog behaving in such a way.
The best time to make changes in a dogs environment and behavior is
long before the baby comes. The last thing we want is to make a lot of
changes right before we bring home the competition. The quickest way to
make a dog jealous and competitive is to take away privileges right before
the star of the show moves in.
If your dog is used to sleeping on your bed, take away that privilege now.
Put a dog bed next to your bed and teach him to sleep next to your bed not
on it. Remember there will be a lot of late nights and bringing the baby
back to bed with you might be a problem if you have a dog taking over the
bed. Consider it a temporary thing until you see that your dog is adapting
to life with baby and then you can invite him back to bed as you see things
fall into place.
If your dog tends to do a lot of barking at passersby, start
working on rewarding him for quiet behavior now and discourage barking by
closing the blinds. There is nothing worse than finally getting a colicky
baby to sleep only to wake her up with a barking lunatic of a dog.
If your dog is a thief and likes to steals things to get attention,
work on teaching him leave it and trade and increase the amount of exercise
he gets. A dog that makes off with dirty diapers, binkies and baby toys
will not make your first months of parenthood all that pleasant. Practice
leaving baby items around the house now before the baby actually arrives
and work on teaching your dog that they are off limits. By the time your
baby arrives your dog will no longer find these things novel and you won't
have to be so vigilant.
If your dog is afraid of new people, strangers and kids start
trying to change this behavior now ! Book a private session with a
qualified trainer or behaviorist and learn the tools you'll need to build
your dogs confidence and improve his behavior. Some of the training you'll
do will involve having strangers offer your dog food or toys at a distance
so that he learns to associate new people with things that are pleasant and
good. You wouldn't believe the people who will want to stop and admire
your new baby while you are out and about, it would be a shame to have to
leave your dog at home on those nice long walks around the neighborhood on
Set up the baby's room early, and let your dog investigate a little
but then put a baby gate in the doorway to help him learn that this room is
off limits unless invited. That way when the baby arrives you will have a
place that you can leave as is without having to worry about the dog
stealing or chewing on things. He can be invited in whenever you feel
you'd like him around but will leave you alone without a fuss if he's not
Lastly, once the baby arrives consider hiring someone to help you
exercise your dog or think about sending him to doggie daycare- a tired dog
has little energy to get into mischief.
These are just a few things that you might want to think about if
your pregnant and are hoping to foster a healthy and pleasant relationship
between your baby and your dog. Happy training !
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