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6 Ways to Get the Dog Ready for Your Baby

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Baby-proofing the Dog

By Victoria Shade, CPDT

Everything changes when your new baby comes home, and your dog is probably going to feel confused by the upheaval at first. Your daily routines, level of attentiveness and availability are greatly impacted, which can be confusing for your pooch. Here are some tips to help smooth the transition for you and your dog when welcoming your newest family member.

1. Practice Dog Obedience Training

Before you get too close to your due date, take the time to polish up your dog’s basic obedience skills, and if you’ve never done any basic training get to work right away. Your dog should be able to do a basic “sit,” hold a down-stay, understand a casual “wait” cue (which is less formal than a “stay” and just means to hold position and not surge forward), and a “place” cue (which is a way to send your dog to a specific spot, like his bed). Each cue is very helpful in making sure that your dog is not underfoot, and if you practice enough, can help with your dog’s impulse control.

2. Buy the Right Dog Supplies

You’ve probably done a ton of baby shopping, but make sure you have the appropriate equipment for your dog as well. It helps to have a fixed length lead (4 – 6 feet long) rather than a retractable leash, as you can use the lead to tether your dog to a heavy piece of furniture if his “stay” needs help. Baby gates won’t be necessary for your child right away, but your dog might benefit from having boundaries during the transition. Invest in a quality bed if you don’t have one already, preferably the type that has bolsters that your dog can lean on. You want your dog’s bed to be a comfortable home base. Finally, purchase a variety of treat-stuffable rubber toys. These activity toys will become your dog’s “babysitter” when you can’t pay attention to him. Providing him with a busy toy is a great way to keep him constructively occupied.

3. Start Stroller Training

Consider doing some “stroller training” with your dog. Some dogs might be frightened by the size and movement of a stroller, so take your time introducing your dog to it. Bring the stroller out, let him sniff it, and then push it slowly. Drop treats for him a few steps away from the stroller so he associates it with good things. Then try taking a walk with your dog, giving him treats for trotting along beside the stroller. If your dog seems afraid during this step, go back to the initial acclimation steps and take your time working up to walking outside with a stroller.

4. Begin New ‘Baby Schedule’

Of course, you can’t predict a newborn’s daily patterns, but do your best to mimic what your new schedule will be like. This will help your dog adjust to what might happen soon. If your dog is accustomed to being fed exactly at 7:30 AM and 5:30 PM every day, start to play with feeding times so that a delayed meal won’t be stressful for your dog. Vary your walk times and duration as well. Finally, try not to smother your dog with extra love in anticipation of the potential dearth of attention to come. The shock to your dog’s system will be that much greater if he goes from daily over-the-top love-fests to being the forgotten citizen overnight.

5. Praise Proper Behavior Around Baby

Your dog will be very curious about his new family member, so it makes sense that he will try to get close to investigate the baby. Watch for and praise appropriate behaviors like backing off when you ask him to and sitting politely instead of jumping up to see the baby. In addition, make sure that your dog’s flea and tick preventative is safe for close contact around newborns. Your vet will be able to provide advice if you have any concerns. 

6. Early Preparation is the Key

Kids that grow up with dogs form special bonds with their best canine friend, and even though the initial adjustment to living with a baby and a dog can be challenging, taking the appropriate steps right from the beginning can make the process a lot less stressful.

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  • Dog and Baby photos :(
    05/20/2015 07:33pm

    Showing pictures of babies lying beside, on, or against dogs plays into the fantasy that it is in any way safe. Sure, there are a lot of tolerant dogs out there, but it just takes one time for them to be pushed too much for tragedy to strike.
    Please do not add to the mythology that "good" dogs are safe around young children. We need to protect both our dogs and kids.
    Please check out [url=http://www.dogsandbabieslearning.com/2012/05/11/cute-dog-and-baby-photos-feed-the-fantasy/]this blog post[/url] or [url=http://www.dogsandbabieslearning.com/2011/01/24/mamas-dont-let-your-babies-get-magnetized-to-dogs/]this one[/url] for some more perspective on dogs and babies.

  • 09/18/2015 02:33am

    Anyone who owns a dog should be able to perceive whether or not s/he can handle a baby. They don't need to read horror stories to be manipulated into ridding of their companion. Not all dogs are vicious, and if you treat your dog correctly, s/he will be perfectly fine around a baby. Dogs are very far from stupid, they know what a baby is, or they quickly learn. It's a small, helpless, treasured human being, and no dog is going to suddenly want to use one as a chew toy, unless you've treated them cruelly. I treat my three dogs(two adopted from the shelter, one raised from a puppy) like they're my children, and they adore my little girl. Don't put bad thoughts like yours into people's minds, because you're paranoid or have had a bad experience yourself.

  • 09/18/2015 03:14am

    Hi jackiexy,
    You may not have read the articles to which I linked (they are not horror stories).
    My comment was not about people giving up their dogs, nor that dogs are inherently vicious and untrustworthy. Rather it is that we love our dogs and should protect them and not put them in positions where their tolerance and trust in us is taken too far and something happens. Just assuming a dog will understand how to handle every situation with a baby/child is putting far too much responsibility on the dog, when it is the responsibility of the parents/pet-owners (not the dog or child) to prevent unsafe situations.
    Also, not all dogs are as friendly as your well cared for family dog. If a child is magnetized to dogs and runs up to every one they see, that's not safe. The vast majority of dog bite victims are children, so it would seem that there are issues with children and dogs that people should be aware of. I would rather parents think twice about how their child interacts with dogs (whether their own or other dogs), than have tragedy strike due to ignorance when the situation could have been prevented.