Courtesy of Mutts with Manners
Prepare before the baby arrives
Establish a daily routine before the baby comes.
- What will your day look like?
- Schedule time in the day for one on one time with your dog. This can be a walk or a short upbeat training session. A tired dog is a good dog. Mental as well as physical exercise will be needed.
- Where is the dog allowed to go in the house? Establish boundaries before the baby arrives. Will your dog be allowed in the nursery? Dog should have a crate or area he goes that children cannot follow. It should be his safe place.
- Dog must be kept off the furniture to avoid problems in the future. Prime real-estate.
- Know dog body language. They are communicating to us all the time. We just need to know what to look for.
- Absent. This must never happen. At no time should dog and baby ever be left alone together.
- Passive. This is dog and baby in the room with you but you are doing something else like working on a computer. Eyes need to be on the dog and baby when they are together.
- Reactive. Responding only when needed or when a problem arises.
Proactive. Planning, preparing, predicting. Where will your dog be when the family is together? Free in the room, tethered, crated, exercise pen.
- Be proactive and have a plan for the dog. Make a few stuffed Kongs at a time and freeze so you always have one ready or give a marrow bone, bully stick etc… in a crate so your dog can be engaged with something while you are busy with the child. Don’t just put food in your dog’s bowl. Food toys give your dog a job to do.
- Arrange for a dog walker or family member to come a few times a week if you are too busy.
Active. Two eyes always on both dog and child. Engaging with both. Example would be playing ball with your dog while your child is in a walker or swing. Or on the floor with your child while your dog has free roam of the house.
Parent guided interactions-Create a positive association between dog and baby. Dog and baby should not be a novelty to each other. Putting your dog in the back yard is not the answer. Careful supervision and good experiences interacting with each other is the answer to a happy home.
- Hold baby while sitting down and invite your dog over to see the baby. No licking. Praise your dog for coming to you, then toss a treat away with a release cue. Then get up and walk away. Sending the dog away from the baby should be said in an upbeat tone of voice. If you send the dog away in a nervous, angry tone you are creating a bad association to the child. Another option is to teach a “move away” cue.
Grumble Zones and Growl Zones
- Be aware that narrow hallways, tops and bottoms of stairways, small crowed rooms and doorways put pressure on a dog. Don’t allow your dog to hang out in an area where you think he might guard the space or react to people moving about or coming in the house.
- Be wary if your child continues to approach the dog in these areas.
Have a Plan for Problems
- If you see your dog exhibiting bad body language do not raise your voice and pull the dog away. Call your dog away with a positively trained cue that will interrupt him and refocus him away from the child. Pulling him away quickly might only escalate the situation. Practice this when there is not a problem so the cue is ready to use when there is a problem.
- Sometimes remove the child by redirecting them with a toy or treat as well. If we are always taking the dog away, removing him from the child and your presence, the child will become a predictor of isolation from the family.
- A few examples of behavior that your dog should know are a hand touch to move him, place and back up.
Taking the time to train your dog before the baby comes will help your dog have an easier time adjusting to this big life change. Dogs feel stress just like humans do. With a little training and preparation it will be a smooth transition for everyone.