Generally these days it’s not uncommon for couples to share their lives with a dog before making the decision to have kids. Later down the track, many dog owners worry about how their “fur baby” will accept the “new baby.”
From a trainer’s perspective, it’s not so much about whether or not the dog will “accept” the baby, instead, how well will the dog adapt to the major change in your house. The good news is that babies generally come with months of notice, giving plenty of time to help prepare their dog for the upcoming transition.
As soon as you know you’re expecting, take a good look at your dog’s obedience skills, and set a plan for modifying any undesirable behaviors. It’s important to start as soon as you can. Often well-rehearsed behaviors don’t go away overnight. Helping a dog successfully change his behavior typically requires a behavior change on your part as well.
Teaching a dog to be relaxed behind a baby gate in another room is a great way to help create a happy household with two- and four-legged babies. This type of management gives everyone a break from actively supervising the dog while attending to the baby or receiving guests, and later can provide a “safe space” for a dog as your baby starts walking. Waiting till your baby is 10 months old and crawling is NOT the time to suddenly start separating your pup.
Being calmly separated from the family is not a skill that many dogs acquire naturally, it’s in your dog’s genetics to want to be near those whom they have a bond with. Even if your dog is crate trained, that can be different, do you want to leave your dog in the crate ALL the time because you have a new addition to the family? Absolutely not. Teaching a dog to stay behind a baby gate is a nice alternative to a crate, especially for longer periods of time, as it gives the dog more space to move.
- “On your spot” or “place.”
Teaching your dog this behaviour is useful in any home, but teaching a dog to reliably go to his bed – and stay until released – can be particularly helpful in your house with a new baby. Having multiple spots for your dog to access with ease means they can enjoy integration with the family, even when visitors are around. A spot in the nursery offers a similar rest area for your dog. Having another spot in your bedroom provides an alternate sleeping arrangement for the dog when you’re nursing the baby in the middle of the night and don’t want him on the bed.
3. Name recognition.
One of the easiest ways to make sure your dog responds to a known cue is to ensure you have your dog’s attention when you deliver the cue. Teaching your dog to direct their attention to you quickly when you say their name can be handy in many situations. Imagine that your dog is cruising around the nursery, about to stick their head in the cot. Or maybe he’s going for the baby swing and you don’t want him to lick the baby. In both cases, you can use your dog’s name in a positive-sounding voice to divert your dog’s attention to you so that you can redirect his energy to a more desirable behavior.
4. Fine tuning “sit” or “down.”
Does your dog know how to sit or lie down? How well does he know these behaviors? What does “He knows it ” mean to you? Ensuring your dog is fluent in this behavior means that your dog consistently responds to the command quickly, and can even do so in various settings and when there are many distractions around e.g. a newborn.
Picture this, you’re sitting on your couch and you’re holding your newborn, you say sit or down (whatever word you use) and your dog can do it. Imagine the stressful situation if your dog wasn’t able to do this so well…
It’s imperative that homes with dogs who display fear or aggression toward people, especially children, contact a qualified trainer who can help evaluate the situation and develop a training plan designed to keep your family & your dog safe. Even the most easy going dogs and their owners will benefit from some thoughtful pre-baby preparation.