One of the biggest mistakes that young couples make is failing to get their dog used to having a new baby live in the house, when the dog has been an ”only child.” Sometimes the ”new arrival” is seen as an intruder into the pack, and this can have disastrous effects. Here are some very important steps you should follow when you are expecting a baby. Keep in mind that you should do these training steps well before the baby comes into your lives.
- Purchase as life-sized a baby-doll as you can find, preferably one that cries. If you can’t find a doll that comes with sound effects, you can purchase a CD that has baby sounds, which include crying.
- Wrap the doll in a clean diaper or blanket, preferably one that already has the scent of a baby on it. If you can’t get one that has a baby’s scent on it, sprinkle the diaper or blanket with some baby powder, and add a few drops of baby lotion too.
- Get into a routine where you’re carrying the ”baby” around the house with you. Talk to the baby much like you would if your real baby were in your arms. Pretend to feed the baby, and talk to the baby. Put the baby on your lap and watch TV. Try to make a daily routine with your new ”baby” and follow it so that your dog gets used to your new behavior.
- Allow your dog to sniff the new ”baby.” Praise him to the skies for calm and friendly behavior toward the doll.
- Put the doll into a stroller and start taking walks with baby and dog. Never forget to praise your dog for accepting the presence of the baby and for being well-behaved while you’re following your new routine as new mother.
- If your dog has been allowed on the sofa, you may want to re-think his having this privilege. Keep in mind that you may have your child in your lap, and your dog may now be wanting to jump up on the sofa when you now don’t want him up there while you’re holding your baby. Suppose you want to nurse your baby while sitting on the sofa? How will you react to the dog when he’s jumping up to sit with you? Plan ahead for situations like this, because if you need to change any of your dogs habits that you’ve accepted before, you need the time to do this now, not after the arrival of the baby.
- Another item you may want to have in your house during this desensitization period is the baby swing. Put the doll in the swing and turn the swing on. Watch your dog’s reaction to the swing. He may need to get used to this piece of equipment. He might start barking at it, or he may feel afraid of it.
- Play your CD with the babies crying everyday. Start out by playing the tape with a very low volume. Gradually accustom the dog to hearing the loud volume of crying babies and watch for any negative reactions. If the dog doesn’t tolerate high-pitched crying, turn the volume down to the level where he’s okay with it. Then begin to turn the volume up again until he’s completely okay with the sounds.
- Do not forget that you’ll still need to keep a normal routine with your dog. If you can keep a routine with the dog throughout this early period, the dog will be more inclined to accept everything else that’s going on in the house. Continue taking the dog for his regular exercise. Don’t slack up on this. If your dog isn’t able to expend his own excess energies, his behavior will deteriorate from boredom and loneliness.
- Teach your dog to keep all 4 on the floor. If you haven’t devoted too much time to obedience training, NOW is the time to really work on this. If you don’t know how to train the dog not to jump, please visit the Obedience Course at K9U.com and get help in this area. The last thing you want is your dog jumping when baby is in your arms.
- Remember that when you first bring your baby home, you may not feel like going out jogging with the dog everyday. You may want to start asking some dog-savvy kids in the neighborhood to begin walking the dog, or playing frisbee or fetch games with him. Get the dog used to new things like this early on instead of waiting until last minute.
- Keep in mind that you’re going to have times after the baby arrives when baby is screaming for his meal, and your dog has to go potty. Things can get pretty chaotic for awhile after the baby arrives.
Just as you are planning ahead for the arrival of your new child, please plan ahead and think how you’re going to help your dog become comfortable with the baby. If, during these early days of getting the dog used to the doll, you see any signs that your dog is experiencing severe stress, or he’s showing any indications of wanting to bite the doll, PLEASE enlist the help of a professional trainer who can come to your home and create a program for you to follow with the dog. It’s better to find these things out now rather than have a disaster occur when the baby comes. If you think you need a trainer, you may want to visit http://www.apdt.com to get a list of trainers in your area. If you live in the south Jersey area, I’d be more than happy to get you started on your dog’s training program.
Don’t wait until the last minute!