You’re having a baby! But how can you help your dog accept the new addition to your family?
It is much better to give thought to this question now than to wait until after your baby is born. You have allowed yourselves some time to become educated and to train your dog to interact with the new family member.
Get at least two training books dealing specifically with children and dogs. There is a large amount of information available on how to make this transition as pleasant and stress-free as possible.
In addition, if your dog has not already completed a basic training course, we recommend enrolling it in one now. For the best chances of success, you and the other family members need to have complete control of your dog.
You should also carefully assess how your dog reacts to children of different ages. There are some dogs that do not tolerate children well, and they can be very difficult and dangerous to deal with. In extreme cases, it may be in the best interest of both your dog and baby to place the animal in a home that has no children.
The most important thing that you should remember is that you should NEVER leave your baby and your dog alone together, under any circumstances. Accidents happen, even with dogs that have shown no previous signs of aggression. Take the few seconds that it takes to put the dog in a crate or some other secure place. Do not risk your child being bitten or even killed by any dog, including your own. We hate to be so grim, but there are many sad stories of this very thing happening when it could have been prevented.
Other Preparation Tips:
- Try to establish a workable feeding and exercise routine before the baby arrives.
- Do not lavish your dog with extra attention that it will miss after the baby is born.
- Allow the dog to explore the nursery and become familiar with the new items there. Train your dog to recognize that baby items are not dog toys. This may take some practice, since many baby toys look similar to dog toys.
- Have someone bring home from the hospital a baby blanket with the baby’s scent on it. This will allow the dog to become familiar with the baby’s odor before it arrives.
- Make the first meeting between animal and child no big deal, with little fan fare. Once you and the baby are calm and settled, let your dog come over to investigate. Do not force a dog to interact with the new “intruder.” Praise the dog calmly when it is near the baby.
- Did you know that barking is less startling to a baby that has been exposed while in utero to the regular barking of a dog?
These are just a few suggestions but there is a lifetime of monitoring and training that you will need to do. If you are having any fears or trouble, you should contact a professional trainer immediately.