Introducing Your Pet Dog to Your Newborn Baby!
For most pet parents, dawgies have been their first child. The child that is used to getting its parent’s undivided attention, 24x7 adoration, and being spoilt for good. However, when a baby comes into the picture, things change!
Let’s try to understand this from a dog’s perspective. From being your only priority to sharing that with a little hooman, it is a tough journey for pets. For all these years, he has woken you up with his K9 alarm, he’s the one you take out for long walks, and he gets to throw all the tantrums around the house while you clean up after him. Your dog is used to being your spoilt goodboy (or goodgirl), and he’s the only one you can’t stop cuddling with. Your pet has always known himself to be your number one.
Bring a baby into this scenario, and this little hooman takes up all the time which was once for you and your pet. The new kid demands your 24X7 attention and does exactly what once rightfully belonged to your pet’s everyday list of to-do’s. Not only does this baby take up your time and attention, your pet feels like he has a competitor, and is unable to process this new emotion.
This is because your dog hasn’t had the time or the training to adjust to the major changes that have been going around. If he or she is not trained properly to cater to the newness of a baby, things can get quite overwhelming for you as a parent. You need to understand that even though the baby needs your complete attention, you can’t sideline your pet from the picture. The more ignored the dogs are, the more are the chances of them going haywire to catch your attention. The minute your dog senses being left out or having to compete with your baby for your time, you’ll be able to sense a change in his behavior and demeanor. These new emotions could result in a brewing hyperactive to mildly violent nature, or hostile behavior towards the baby.
How do I prevent my pet from getting hostile towards my baby?
The reason why pets find it overwhelming to have a new creature in the house is because they aren’t prepared for it. What may be a new addition to your family, is a stranger for your dog! Gradually reducing the element of strangeness is the key to making sure that your dog’s behavior doesn’t turn violent. Which means preparing your pet for what is to come, over a period of time.
“You need to be sure your dog obeys commands perfectly. You could begin with bringing home baby toys, strollers, dolls and play baby sounds to normalize these with your dog”, suggests Namratha Rao, a certified canine trainer and behaviorist at Pawsitive Tales.
But there are so many things to be taken care of. When do I start?
As early as possible! When you find out that you’re pregnant, make sure your dawgie knows it too. There are a lot of things that need to be taken care of and you must give your pet ample time to become familiar to all things baby.
How do I begin this transition? In what order do I need to prioritize, if at all?
You cannot make drastic changes to your dog’s environment overnight. So you need to start making small changes from the time you start expecting. To help you take care of the most important things, we have prepared a timeline for you to plan to condition your pet:
1. When you’re expecting
At this stage, you can begin with the two most important things, training and socialization of your dog:
A: Training: If your pet has never been to a proper training class, make sure you sign him up for one. Activities like jumping up to greet you may seem cute right now, but they pose a definite risk when you’re 8 months pregnant or carrying a baby in your arms. Training instructions will come in handy to get your dog in control when he’s exhibiting signs of hyperactivity.
B: Introducing your dog to children: Most dogs have usually never been around children. Young toddlers are very different from grown hoomans. For starters, they fear nothing and they shriek. They also make sudden movements and get in dog’s faces without warning. You never know how your pet may react to that, and hence it’s a great idea to get him accustomed to tiny tots by taking him to a park. You may get other parents to have their kids present around your dog and let your pooch get familiar with them.
2. Three months before your due date
This is the time when you need to make active changes in your lifestyle and help your dog adapt to them. As maddening as it sounds, get a doll which resembles a baby. And make sure you cuddle with it, take it for walks, change its diapers, bathe and powder it. Take your baby doll for an outing in a stroller, with your pooch on a leash. Dawgies have a tendency to get startled at the slightest of things, like a cat crossing by or a rattle in the leaves; and will jump and try to run off-leash. This behavior can get very troublesome when you’re carrying a baby along. Make sure that you use this time to get a control over your pet’s urges and sudden bouts of energy. Continue with this activity on a daily basis to get him acquainted with a good behavioral pattern around babies. Leash training is also very helpful at this stage.
3. One month before your due date
You need to make all the arrangements for the delivery day, and the couple of weeks after it, during this time. Juggling with a newborn and a pet can be very tough. So you’ll need to arrange for friends or doggie daycare institutes to have your pet taken care of. In both of these cases, go with your pet beforehand to check if they meet all your pet’s requirements. Get him familiar with the environment there to ensure a smooth transition.
4. Two weeks before your delivery date
Knowing that your delivery date could be any time now, you have to ensure that your pet doesn’t suffer at all. Divide up his food portions into meals, and make sure you communicate his mealtimes to his dog-sitters. Also, while you won’t be there, your pet will definitely get anxious. Make sure that his toys are all lined up for him to play and that his caregivers get him ample exercise throughout the day. This will guarantee he sleeps soundly.
5. While you’re in the hospital
This is the perfect time for your dog to get adapted to the scent of your baby. Have a family member bring a bodysuit or bib that your baby has been wearing, and get your dog to sniff it. Recognizing the scent will help your pet get adapted to the baby more smoothly.
6. After you’ve come home
For the first few weeks to be a smooth transition, you need to take care of your pupper. Have a family member take him for long walks, dawgie exercises and give him lots of toys to make sure he burns off his energy in something constructive. Always keep the baby under supervision, and slowly start introducing the two.
The First Introduction
This will be one of the most precious moments you’ll ever witness. But you also need to be very cautious about it. No matter how well trained your dawgie is, everytime they witness a newborn, they tend to forget everything and switch to a hyperactive mode. While introducing the two, keep your pet on a leash, and at a safe distance from the baby. Allow your dog to sniff the child, and always be around the two of them to keep trouble at bay.
Priyamvada Shukla, dog trainer and behaviour & aggression consultant at Fine K9 says, “Wrapping the child in a cloth and placing him/her on an elevated platform, allowing your dog to sniff him (but not reach him) is a good practice. Visual separation but presence in the same room helps. Moreover, leaving any child under 13 years of age unattended with a dog is not a good idea.”
Tips & Tricks for Smooth Dawgie-Baby Interactions
Designate some areas in the house which are strictly off limits for your pet. You can install a playpen, with bars, so that your dog can’t enter it. This way your baby can have a space of her own to rest and learn how to crawl, and you don’t have to worry about the pet-baby conflict.
Stock up on playthings and treats
Since your dog is going to have an attention deficit, make sure other family members or friends take him for long walks. Remember, a tired dog is a happy dog. Have ample of playthings around to distract your pet, and keep treats handy to reward him for good behavior. Just don’t over-bribe him!
Avoid food fights
Make sure your baby and your pet’s food are at a safe distance. Many a time, when kids learn to crawl, they enjoy splashing their hands into everything, including your pet’s bowls. Some dogs are very territorial about their food, so you need to keep them at a safe distance to avoid a fight.
Teach your baby to be gentle
As kids gain motor control, they slowly learn how to grab and pull things. Show your baby how to gently pet your dawgie, and he or she will learn the same. Your pet shall have a new friend and cuddle buddy!
No matter how trained your pet is, infant behavior can serve as an irritant to them, and they may behave frantically. At any signs of discomfort, relocate the two of them to well-distanced spaces.
There’s absolutely no reason why pets and babies can’t go together. With proper training and adaptation techniques, these two can go on to be best friends! Pet behavior doesn’t just depend on training, it also has a lot to do with your pet’s nutrition and his health. A healthy dog will make a happy family. Make sure your pet is eating the right food that fulfills all his nutritional needs.
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