Five tips to ensure that your dog will share in the happiness of your growing family.
Tip #1: Brush up on basic obedience. Practice relaxation exercises on a blanket in preparation for nap time or nursing. Teach your dog how to walk on a loose leash so that you, your baby, and your dog can enjoy long strolls through the neighborhood.
Tip #2: Babies cry, this can be stressful for your dog. Go on Youtube and play audio clips of a baby crying. Keep the volume low to start, and gradually increase it so long as your dog is exhibiting calm, relaxed body language. During this time you can also provide your pup with high value treats to create a positive association with noises that might otherwise generate anxiety.
Tip #3: Most dogs are scolded for an over exuberant greeting when mom first comes home from the hospital, this can make for a stressful introduction to family life. Baby steps. When coming home from the hospital Dad should wait outside with the baby, and Mom should come inside alone to greet the dog, put him on leash, and reward calm behavior. If the dog is calm when Dad comes in with the baby, you can allow the dog to sniff at the baby's toes. If the dog seems nervous, or overly-excited, lead the dog to a training mat and provide reinforcement when he targets the mat. When in doubt, err on the side of caution, and save the introduction for a later time when the dog is more relaxed.
Tip #4: Brush up on canine body language and stress signals, and use this knowledge to read your dog when he is around infants, toddlers, strangers and unfamiliar objects. Contact a professional trainer for tips on how to improve your dog's social skills, if you notice early warning signs of fear or anxiety.
Tip #5: Create a dog safe place. Initially, this will be a place that your dog can retreat to when the baby is crying, or when you have a lot of visitors. As time goes on this will be a good place for your dog to sneak away to get some rest when your baby becomes mobile, and develops a deep, and unrelenting fascination for her four-legged-furry-sibling.
Alyssa Lapinel, CPDT
Certified by the Council for Professional Dog Trainers