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Canine University 71 Clinton St. Malden, MA

The Family Dog

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 sunny afternoons.

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 invited.

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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