An inconsistently trained or resentful dog can be a major danger to a new baby. If your dog has never seen a baby before, it may be confused by what position it occupies in the pack dynamic of the family. Babies behave differently from adult humans and even older children. Prepare your dog for a new addition to your family to head off problems and protect both your baby and your dog.
The most important preparation you can make before your baby arrives is to make sure your dog is properly trained. As soon as you know you are expecting, spend extra time ensuring your dog responds immediately to your commands. This includes responding in a high stress situation, when obeying your means going against the dog’s instincts. If your dog does not respond well to your commands, enroll it in obedience school. A dog that does not respond as needed to commands can be a danger to your baby.
If you must alter the rules for your dog when the baby arrives, do so now, before the baby is born. This includes any play biting, barking, or rough housing. Also reduce the amount of attention you give your dog week by week. You do not want to make your dog feel that he is ignored in favor of a baby. Instead, make it become accustomed to less attention long before the birth.
Also make sure your dog is accustomed to having people near its food dish. A child will be fascinated with your pet as he begins to crawl. Make sure that your dog is not protective of its food or disaster could result. Also make sure your dog responds well to pinching, heavy petting, or even pulling of the tail. A child will try to do these things to your dog, and your dog cannot respond badly to them. Of course, as your baby grows, teach him correct manners with your pet as well.
Before your baby comes home, present your dog with a blanket with the baby’s scent on it. Allow your dog to sniff the blanket, but not play with it. Praise your dog and give it treats, so that is associates the smell with pleasant rewards. When your baby comes home for the first time, your dog will already recognize him from the scent on the blanket, and be less likely to react negatively.
Be sure to introduce your dog to the baby to make it clear that your baby is part of the family pack. The best method is to hold the baby in your lap while the dog looks at him. Do not allow your dog to nudge or paw at the baby. If it does, remove it from the area. If the dog responds favorably, praise it and give it a food reward. If the dog associates the baby with praise and food, it will be more likely to accept the baby in your home.
It is important to consistently and constantly reinforce good behavior from your dog. When it is playing quietly or ignoring the baby, give it a treat. You want to maintain a strong, constant association with good conduct towards the baby and proper rewards. Try also to keep the dog’s schedule constant. A walk at the same time each day and regular feeding times will help keep your pet secure during other changes.
No matter how well your dog is trained, do not leave your dog and your baby alone. It is impossible to know how your dog will react for certain in every encounter with your baby. If you are there, you can stop any interactions that make you uncomfortable.
Train your dog carefully to protect its welfare as well as your baby. There are stories every year of dogs that must be destroyed because they attacked a baby. Make sure your dog is well trained and supervised during visits with your baby and see it accept your child as a member of the family.