Dog meets baby

The birth of a baby is a wonderful event for your human family. To make it an equally joyous occasion for your dog, you need to give him some special attention to help him cope.

Since they are pack animals and follow a strict hierarchy in their lives, having a strange new member of the pack might confuse them. In the beginning, your dog will probably consider the new baby as a member of the lower pack order and may display dominant behavior such as growling, crouching, or laying their ears down or back.

You need to stay alert for signs of aggression and correct it immediately. Dogs that have deep bonds with their owners may stop eating and/or sink into depression. Consult your veterinarian or a licensed animal behaviorist if you cannot control these problems on your own.

Prepare for arrival

There are some things you can do to get your dog used to the new scent before you even bring your baby home. Set up the baby’s room and leash your dog (so he understands that he is only allowed in baby’s room when you okay it) and take him into the room to sniff the new furniture and accessories. Set containers of baby powder and lotions in rooms around the house so the dog gets used to smelling the baby everywhere.

When you bring your baby home, make his room off-limits, with no exceptions, to the dog. Teach the dog that they cannot approach the baby without your okay. Establish a boundary line around the baby and make the dog honor that boundary.

Eventually, as your dog shows his respect for the new member of the pack, he can be allowed to look and sniff at the baby. Try not to panic and yank the baby away if the dog comes near because the dog might interpret that to mean the baby is a threat to the pack.

Though you’ll likely be busy, don’t forget to spend personal time with your dog, playing his favorite game or going for a walk, so that he doesn’t feel abandoned or rejected.

But even with all the special care you take, some dogs may never accept children. There are usually no behavioral problems with dogs that were raised with children, but you still need to supervise their interactions closely. And if a child has ever mistreated your dog in the past, you could have significant obstacles to overcome that might require the services of a professional.

Protecting your dog

Of equal importance is to teach your children the proper way to treat your family dog. Make them understand that dogs feel pain and get lonely just like people. Correct any inappropriate or unkind behavior to the dog and praise them when they are gentle and loving with him.

Children also need to learn that a dog will naturally chase them if they run and that playfully grabbing a dog’s tail is an open invitation to the dog to chase them and jump on them.

A little extra time and care on your part can make your dog’s acceptance of your new family addition go much smoother.

Source: Adapted from the American Animal Hospital Association