May 13, 2011

Bringing Home The Baby

A lot of my clients are either pregnant or have just had a new baby. Is there something in the air?

I have been getting a lot of questions about how to introduce the new baby to the dog.

I believe preparation should start when you first find out about the pregnancy. If your dog has some behavioral issues that need working on, then start now - not when the baby comes home.

The most important thing you can do is teach SIT. Practice, practice, practice this. If the dog knows SIT means SIT, this will help with everything you do.

Is your dog crate trained, or does it have a special room or place in the house where it will feel safe? If so, try to keep this area reserved strictly for the dog. When the baby starts to crawl or walk, it should not be allowed near this space.

A dog's view of the world comes mainly from its sense of smell. Right after the baby is born, bring home a blanket that has the baby's smell on it. Let the dog sniff this from time to time so that it can get used to the scent before the baby enters the house.

When the baby is brought home for the first time, make sure the dog is either confined to its "special" place or is on leash and under someone's control. Let the dog get used to the new sounds and smells for at least a couple of hours before allowing the dog anywhere near the baby. DO NOT tempt the dog by forcing the initial meeting or holding the baby at the dog's height.  Let the introduction happen naturally. My advice would be to just go about taking care of the baby. Once the baby is sleeping, give the dog some petting and lots of affection while allowing him or her to approach in a controlled manner.

Do not allow the dog to play with any of the baby's clothing or toys. If the dog does get something belonging to the baby, take it away and replace it with one of the dog's toys. It also helps to keep the dog's toys limited to one or two items - there will be less chance of confusion.

As the days go by, you should get into a routine as to when it is appropriate for the dog to be around you and the baby.

NEVER EVER leave a dog and a young child unattended.

It is very important to give your dog as much time as you can during the first few weeks. I know that people will be tired, and that lots of things have changed. Remember, though, the dog is also feeling all of this change. All too often the dog is ignored after the arrival of a newborn and, just like a petulant kid, may act out to get attention.