Preparing Your Dog for a New baby
By Arlo the Hound with help from Honor Tarpenning
Last week a three day old infant was snatched from his crib by his family’s 4 year old Native American Indian Dog and carried into the woods. Currently, the child is recovering in the hospital. His condition was updated from "critical" to "serious" on Friday. Controversy revolves around why it happened. Was it the dog’s breed, a wolf hybrid, which caused this situation? Was the dog jealous? Did the dog think little AJ was a puppy or a toy? Regardless of the reason, the best way to protect your new child and the future safety of your dog is to properly prepare your dog for the arrival of a new baby.
I am truly saddened by this story, both for AJ’s parents, and Dakota, the dog. The fact is, Dakota was alone with the tiny, 3 week premature infant for approximately ten minutes. Even I, a 25lb beagle, could have caused the death of this tiny baby in seconds; let alone a 65 lb wolf-like dog in ten minutes. That means this was not a vicious dog attack, but a far more complex behavior that we may never understand. However, if the dog had been properly trained, conditioned to the presence of the newborn, and taught from day one (nearly nine months ago) that he was NEVER allowed in the nursery this whole incident might have been avoided.
Readying your Dog for a New Baby
The first step is preparing the nursery and baby proofing the house as soon as you possibly can. The longer your dog has to get used to the physical changes in the home, the better. Use the entire nine months to teach your dog that he is never allowed in the nursery. One of the best ways to teach this is to put up a dog gate. That way, when you are in the room with the baby, he can still watch what’s going on and not feel as left out.
You must also condition your dog to the sounds, sights, and smells of a baby. Teach your dog a Place command (which you can learn more about in our Behavior and Training Articles Section) that is cued by you holding the baby and saying “place.” Accomplish this by carrying a baby doll around, and inviting friends with babies over. Any time you or your friends are picking up the baby, tell your dog to “place” and give him lots of treats and love when he does. He will learn that the times when the baby is in your arms are not play times. Make your dog more comfortable with new baby smells by wearing baby powder or baby oil on your skin. You can also play tapes of babies laughing and crying and reward your dog with treats to allow him to grow accustomed to these sounds.
Take the time to think about how your daily routine is going to change when you bring home your baby. Adjust your dog’s routine accordingly long before baby comes home. Consider meal times, walk times, and when you tend to take your pooch out for playtime too.
Bringing Baby Home
Before you come home with your new baby, send someone else your dog trusts home with a blanket in which the baby has been wrapped. This person should allow the dog to investigate the blanket thoroughly, while being provided lots of treats and calm attention. This will give your dog immediate positive associations with the baby’s smell.
When you get home, let someone else hold the baby while you go in and greet your dog. You have been gone under rather stressful circumstances, you probably left in a hurry, and you dog will want to check you out, make sure you’re ok, and probably give you lots of kisses. Give your dog plenty of time to say hello and calm down. Once your dog has calmed down completely, have him place and bring in the baby near him. Sit next to him (have your partner or a friend keep a hand on his collar just in case) and calmly praise him while someone gives the dog treats to reward calm behavior.
It is very important that you don’t forget that before you had a baby, you dog was your baby. It is easy to get wrapped up in the excitement and responsibility of your new child, but you must remember that your dog needs just as much love and affection as he did before you had a baby. He still needs exercise, he still needs attention, and he still needs a consistent routine.
So what about Dakota? Last I heard she’s sitting in a Kentucky animal control pen awaiting her fate, which is still uncertain. I sure hope she is adopted by a nice family with a big yard and no young children.
Have a fantastic day, and stay tuned for Monday’s article on rainy day fun for you, your kids, and your dog.