Your Child vs. Your Pet: How to Keep the Peace
How will my dog and my new baby get along? Will I have to get rid of my loyal, furry companion in order to ensure the safety of my child? These are the questions that plague many dog owners as they anticipate the birth and homecoming of their first child. The good news is that even though the process of introducing your dog to your newest family addition is a careful and cautious one, it’s not impossible. With some pre-planning on your part, you can train your dog to get along with your child and can raise your child to respect and love your dog as much as you do.
Getting Your Pet Used to a Baby
So, you’re expecting a baby. Congratulations! This is a time of change, discovery and joy like no other. If you are a dog owner, however, your happiness may be tempered by thoughts of your dog and how your “fur baby” will react to all of these monumental changes. Fear not! If you start preparing your dog for the baby’s arrival well in advance of the baby’s due date, you should be able to minimize any associated conflicts or problems.
If your dog currently has access to all rooms in the house, get him used to not entering which ever room will serve as the nursery. Keep that door closed so your dog will not consider it part of his regular territory. Then, get the dog used to your being in the room without him. Keep the nursery door closed while you’re assembling baby furniture or decorating the room. This way, the dog will learn that even though there is activity there, he is not a part of it. Make sure, though, to pay a little extra attention to your dog once you leave the nursery and return to his territory.
Has your dog been to obedience school? If not, now is a great time for you both to go. Not only will it allow you to spend some quality time together before the baby comes, it will give you the tools necessary to control your dog’s behavior. It will also help your dog get used to being in a room full of activity, other dogs and (maybe) children. This aspect of obedience school is an especially important one if your pre-baby household has been a relatively quiet one.
Another way to get your dog used to some of the noises a baby brings is to buy some tapes of babies crying. Start playing the tapes at a very low volume until the dog seems not to notice the sound anymore. Then, gradually increase the volume until it reaches a realistic level (the process should take place over days and weeks, not all in one day). When your baby cries at home, your dog will be less startled.
When your baby finally comes home, keep the dog away from the infant for the first few days. He should already be used to baby noises, but get him used to the baby’s smell by putting one of the baby’s blankets in his resting or sleeping area. When it’s time to introduce your baby and dog to each other, keep the dog on a short leash and reward him during the introductions. This will reinforce the idea that the baby is a positive thing. Also, pay attention to your dog while he and the baby are in the same room. This will help your dog avoid seeing the baby as a threat or something that is taking you away from him. No matter how well trained your dog is, though, never leave the baby alone with him.
Take extra care as your child enters the crawling and walking stage. Depending on the breed, your dog may be absolutely terrified of this little crawling creature or he may view your child as prey. Neither of these scenarios is permanent, though. Your dog just has to get used to your baby moving itself around as opposed to being carried around. Keep your dog next to you while the baby is crawling or walking and reward him for being still (this is where the obedience training comes in really handy!). Your dog will most likely get used to your child’s new movements in no time at all.
Teaching Your Child How to Properly Interact with the Family Dog
As your child grows, it’s important to teach him or her how to properly deal with and treat the family dog (or any dog, for that matter). Teach your child from early on to “play nice” with the dog. Teach him or her not to pull the dog’s fur, strike the dog or startle the dog on purpose. Dogs are animals and their first instincts, when faced with a threat, may lead them to bite or growl.
Your child should also be taught not to chase a dog when it’s running away from them or to bother it when it’s sleeping or eating. Teaching your child that a dog is a living creature, not a toy, will go a long way toward preventing some avoidable acts of aggression.