Bringing home a new baby can be stressful for the family, but can also be confusing for your dog. Let me share with you some tips that can help with this transitional time and allow your dog make sense of whats going. These tips will help 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: Play audio clips from YouTube of a baby crying
Babies are going to cry and this can be super stressful for your dog. So that your pup gets familiar with the sound that will inevitably be going on for some time to come, 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: Manage their greetings
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. Rather than being reactive to this type of greeting, plan for it.
Here’s what you should do when coming home from the hospital. Dad (or partner) should wait outside with the baby and Mom should come inside alone to greet the dog, put him on leash, and reward calm behavior with high value treats. 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: Read body language
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. If you notice early warning signs of fear or anxiety, you can set-up an online behavior consultation for tips on how to improve your dog’s social skills and to help them feel more comfortable.
Tip #5: Create a dog safe place
Creating a safe place for your dog is extremely important. 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.