Introducing your dog to a new baby

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – September is Baby Safety Month so Richard and Vicki Horowitz from Bark Busters stopped by our studio with Malbec, a 4 year old Cavapoo, and his owners, who are parents-to-be, to help us ensure a smooth transition for Malbec when his owners’ bring home the new baby.

Dogs can feel rejected and become confused or stressed when parents suddenly shift their attention from a dog to a baby. A dog doesn’t understand why a baby is being elevated above the dog in the pack. In trying to regain his pack position, the dog may seek attention through behaviors such as barking at the baby’s cries, jumping up, or chewing on baby’s things.

What do people do to make for a smooth transition of having a baby in the house?

  • Set new rules before baby arrives. For instance, if you decide to keep your dog out of the baby’s room, start this new rule several weeks or months before the baby arrives. Thus, your dog will not associate baby’s arrival with exclusion from the room. Also, begin to introduce an erratic schedule so the dog does not know when he will get walked, fed or played with.
  • Baby sounds. Begin to play baby sounds so your dog gets desensitized to the various noises of a baby crying or giggling.
  • Teach your dog the difference between his toys and your child’s things. If and only if you catch your dog chewing on something unsuitable, interrupt the behavior, then give the dog an acceptable chew toy and praise him lavishly when he takes it in his mouth. Consider minimizing soft toys for your dog so there is no confusion between dog and baby toys. There are many hard dog appropriate toys available.
  • Prepare your dog for baby’s arrival. Desensitize your dog to the new sights and smells he will soon encounter. An easy way to do this is to buy an inexpensive doll that makes baby sounds. Wrap it in a blanket and hold it in your arms as you walk around the house. Apply to the doll the same baby products (powder, shampoo, lotion) that you will use on the baby. After the baby is born, bring home the newborn’s blanket or a piece of clothing with the baby’s scent, prior to your baby’s arrival home to allow your dog to become accustomed to the scent of the newest member of the family

What is the proper way to introduce the dog to the baby?

  • Make introductions on the first day the baby arrives home. Your dog will need to “touch scent” the baby to find out what it is. While another adult controls the dog on a loosely held leash, hold your newborn up high and let your dog sniff the baby’s bottom or feet. If the dog misbehaves or is too exuberant, correct his behavior by guiding him away.
  • Allow frequent, supervised visits with your dog. The more the dog and baby are together, the better behaved and less stressed your dog will be. However, neither newborn nor toddler should ever be left unattended in the same room with any dog.

How do you teach your dog the difference between their toys and the baby’s toys?

  • Select the right toys for your dog…minimize soft toys and stuffed animals…consider more hard dog appropriate toys. Dogs can be possessive about their food, toys and space. Although this is normal, it is NOT acceptable for them to growl or snap at you or your baby or child.
  • At the same time, children need to learn to respect their dog as a living creature that is not to be teased or purposefully hurt, and that needs time to themself. If your dog is growling or snapping at your child for any reason, the situation needs IMMEDIATE attention.

Having a baby enter into your lives is a very exciting event. Our dogs can be stressed by this major change to your household. So proper preparation can help minimize your dog’s stress and unwanted behaviors from occurring. This will result in a happy household for all.

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