To a dog, a baby is entirely different than an adult and some dogs just don't know how to act around them. However, with a carefully managed introduction, owners can start dog and baby off on the right foot to ensure a loving and rewarding relationship.
Before the Introduction
For a dog-owning couple who is expecting, the pregnancy provides more than ample time to prepare the dog for meeting the baby. Basic obedience training is the ideal starting point if it hasn’t already been completed. Further to this, establishing out-of-bounds areas will ensure that the dog doesn’t attempt to interact with the baby unsupervised. Once baby is born, take home a blanket from the hospital and give it to the dog. This gives the pet a good opportunity to familiarize himself with baby’s scent before you bring your new addition home.
Introducing Baby and Dog
The first introduction must be carefully managed. To enable the dog to familiarize himself with the baby without becoming over-stimulated, multiple brief periods of interaction are the best approach. Allow the dog to see, but not touch the baby. If the dog gets too excited, calmly walk him out of the room. Reward the dog for calm, passive behavior and remove him from the room for a time-out each time he whines, pulls or otherwise shows a lack of good manners.
Encouraging Good Habits
By telling the dog to sit each time baby is brought into the room, he’ll gradually understand that he is no longer the center of attention. Each time the dog complies with this routine, give him a food reward or a toy. It’s not fair to completely isolate your dog from the baby, so allow him to approach as you’re holding baby, but make it clear by using vocal commands that he must not attempt to climb, jump or otherwise be disruptive while baby is in the room. Discourage excitable behavior by only acknowledging your dog when he is calm. When baby is put down for a nap, lavish attention on your dog and give him an interrupted play session. This way, he’ll learn that the presence of the new baby doesn’t mean he is less valued as a member of the family.
Never leave the dog and a baby unattended. Dogs are naturally curious about the new smells and sounds that a baby brings but they do not understand how delicate they are. It only takes a second for a curious dog to paw at the baby, potentially causing injury. Even when you’re present, you should never allow the dog unrestricted physical access to the baby.
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.