From the FBRN homepage, 2/22/13
Bringing Home Baby
Several of my clients have asked for help in the preparation of their dogs for the arrival of a baby or when problems have arisen after bringing a new baby home from the hospital. Identifying any problem areas or behavior issues and addressing them well ahead of time can make for a stress free environment once the big day arrives. The main consideration is that new babies bring home new smells, sounds and a constant supply of visitors. Here are some key points to consider about our dogs.
1. Are they basically obedient; will they come, sit ( down is a bonus), stay and leave on command?
2. Are they well behaved when visitors arrive or become over excited, is there any guarding or protective behavior?
3. How does my dog react in general to babies and young children, and to what degree is that a concern?
Once identified, any issues can be worked on in good time with the help of a trainer if needed. Think about basic routines that a new baby will need and decide how your dogs will fit into this. If they can't fit in, decide on a simple plan. For example, when you are feeding, changing diapers, or bathing a baby, where will your dogs be and how will they know how to behave appropriately? Training a dog to go into their crate or bed to enjoy a treat or toy while these duties are carried out will make for a much easier and stress-free time for all.
That said, a dog shouldn't be routinely shut away when challenges occur or they cannot learn how to behave. Teach your dogs that they cannot enter the baby's room without permission and that waiting on the other side of the threshold with an open door is a way for them to feel connected while everyone remains safe. Dogs that react to cries and screams can be desensitized using training CDs.
Once baby is born it's a good idea to bring home a blanket or diaper with their scent on it and introduce those smells to the dogs, insisting that they leave the items. Dogs should never be allowed to pick up and play with any item that has a baby's scent on and should be encouraged to respect a baby's personal space. Inviting your dog to sit or lie beside your baby should only take place if you feel that you have complete control, your dog is comfortable in all situations around the baby, and you are holding the baby at all times. Finally make sure that there is a plan to continue your dog's daily exercise routine. Having someone help with this for the first few weeks can keep your dog feeling fulfilled and not suffering from pent up energy. Many new parents call on friends to supply meals for the first few weeks; consider asking friends to drop by to exercise the dog. Professional dog-walkers or neighborhood kids can be hired to walk your dog until you are able to work out the schedule that works best for you.
A little basic training and establishing a routine for the whole family while creating positive associations between our dogs and new family members can set the foundation for the wonderful relationship they'll share in the future.
In the coming months, we'll write about managing toddlers and dogs; when babies become mobile, there are different concerns to be negotiated .