What can we do to encourage a great relationship between our dog and new baby?
Excellent question! Just by asking, you’re taking steps towards success. There are many new life experiences ahead for you and your dog so preparing early on in your pregnancy can really help this transition flow smoothly.
Three areas of focus I find most helpful when expecting a baby are:
- Learning about your dog’s sensitivities and motivations
- Decreasing attention-seeking behaviors
- Defining and fine tuning manners and boundaries
Learning about your dog’s sensitivities is critical when a baby is on the way so that you can plan and prepare for things that will be stressful or over arousing for your dog. Example: If your dog is noise sensitive, then you will take that into consideration as you prepare with your CD of baby noises (www.legacycanine.com, Sounds Good Baby). If your dog is reactive towards fast moving things or objects in motion, then you will want to plan accordingly as you bring swings and bouncers into your home. Taking into consideration your dogs triggers and responses, along with their motivators, is key in preparing for baby.
Attention-seeking behaviors such as bringing over a soggy tennis ball as you watch TV each evening may no longer be appreciated once you hold your newborn. In fact, it may lead to a less then friendly response from a new protective parent. This can be confusing for dogs and often creates stress as they do not know what to do to get the same attention they once did prior to baby. Often this is when the dog tries all that has worked before and even resorts to receiving negative attention from their family. The family then interprets this as the dog is jealous or being spiteful of the baby. No, it’s just that what worked for the dog in the past no longer works now–and he is desperately trying to engage with his people at all costs, even if negative. Assessing attention-seeking behaviors and eliminating or altering them prior to baby’s arrival makes life less stressful and enjoyable for all.
Dogs are most successful when they know what is expected of them. Defining and teaching boundaries and manners prior to baby’s arrival allows families to include their dog in everyday baby routines. This constant inclusion allows the dog to develop and maintain a familiarity and bond with the new baby. This increases safety and harmony for all.
Learning your dog’s sensitivities, decreasing attention seeking behaviors, and defining and teaching boundaries and manners are three great ways to prepare you and your dog for life with baby. I feel these are the most important ingredients to a successful and life long relationship. Taking steps like these will allow you to include your dog, with full supervision, in daily baby care routines. This makes life interesting and allows your dog to become familiar with your baby as he or she grows and develops.
Families that do not prepare often feel overwhelmed and seclude their dogs, preventing this critical bonding through familiarity. This can lead to a sad existence for the dog, a decrease in safety between baby and dog, and potentially unhappy ending. Thank you for choosing to learn more about preparing you and your dog for life with baby. You have much to look forward to!