WHEN dog and baby are introduced correctly, the experience can be safe and pleasant for your dog, baby and family members. Not all dogs like babies, just like not all humans like babies. However, this does not mean they cannot live in harmony with one another.
Before the new baby is born, it is wise to begin introducing the dog to baby items and smells such as allowing the dog to be part of the preparations. Let the dog sniff in the baby’s room at all the baby bedding, clothing, push chair, toiletries and toys etc. This allows the dog to get used to this room being occupied and the new smells that go with it.
Dogs can get upset or frustrated when there is change in the household, a change in the amount of attention they usually receive from their owner, or a change to the routine. These changes can cause a degree of stress to your dog’s behaviour as he finds the changes a little difficult to cope with. Often the dog is told off for jumping up or reacting in other ways to the changes instead of getting the correct attention he needs. Even if you are the most calm and relaxed person around your dog, there will be times of tension. Be patient as the dog is trying to make a big adjustment, just as his humans are.
Try to get into a routine of how life will be when the baby is around. Try using a baby doll and carry this around. Put the doll in a high chair at times, put the doll in the push chair from time to time and push the doll around the house. Sit with your dog, having the doll in one arm while massaging or gently stroking and talking to your dog nicely.
You may feel a bit silly carrying a doll around but the more you do this and treat it as if it’s a real baby, it will be easier for your dog to accept what’s going on and learn how to react towards the real baby when it arrives. Remember to praise your dog for all good behaviour towards the doll.
Turn on the baby’s lullaby tunes and toys from time to time so the dog gets used to these sounds. There are also CDs available with the sounds of babies crying on them. These CDs can be played at a low level for about two minutes a few times a day so your dog gets used to the sound of a baby. There are usually instructions with these CDs on how to use the programmes.
Purchase a few new toys for your dog just before the baby arrives and make sure your dog has a place such as a bed, open crate or blankets in which he can go and get out of the way if he chooses. This way he has his own space, his own toys and a place to escape to and de-stress should all the new baby sounds and activity get a bit much for him.
When baby comes home, allow the dog to safely sniff the baby (not the baby’s face) if he wants to (so long as it is safe to do so) while the baby is in your protective arms. The dog will be curious and need to see and sniff the baby. Some dogs will love having a new baby around and others will just sniff and turn their backs as if to say ‘thanks but no thanks, not for me’.
This is OK and it is the dogs own choice to like or dislike babies, just like humans also have the choice. You cannot make him like a baby if he doesn’t want to. This need not be a problem and does not mean he will be aggressive or harm the baby in any way. It is up to us to respect the dog’s choice and manage the situation by helping the dog out and giving him space when the baby is around.
Make sure the dog's bedding, especially at night, is as far away from the baby’s room as possible, so that your dog gets the least disturbance and disruption to his routine as possible if the baby wakes in the night.
When feeding baby during the day, make sure your dog also has something of his own to chew. Perhaps give him his dinners when baby has her dinners or give him a food-stuffed Kong, treat ball or some type of quality chew treat your dog likes and can feel a sense of belonging and not being left out when you are busy with the baby.
If the dog really loves the baby and will continue to go into the baby’s bedroom to wake it up, put a dog/baby gate in the doorway of the baby’s room to prevent him from going in there. Never leave your dog alone with a baby or child without supervision.
Never shout at your dog, strike him or say NO or do anything that would cause him any pain or fear in front of the baby. Dogs learn by association and if he is looking at your baby at the time he experienced the pain, or negative experience, he may associate it with the baby and begin to fear babies which can lead to behaviour problems with babies and small children. Make sure every experience your dog has around your baby is pleasant, then dog, baby and family can all live in harmony with on another.
Recommended reading: Your dog and your baby by Silvia Hartmann-Kent. Recommended CD: Sounds soothing, both at www.qanuk.com