Curling up on the sofa with you, chewing on anything he finds, jumping up when you walk through the door… all habits your dog has that don’t bother you. But, with a baby on the way, it’s time to get these habits in check.
Of course, as a nation of pet lovers, we all dream of our child growing up around animals and forming a close friendship and bond with their four-legged friend, but what things do we as parents need to think about before introducing them to one another?
Whether you already have a canine companion and a baby on the way, or you're looking to expand your family even more with the addition of a dog, there are some things you need to know before introducing your dog to your baby to keep the both of them safe.
If you already have your baby and you're looking to get a dog, it's important to consider breeds that are safe and reliable to have around children. We've rounded up the best dog breeds that are perfect for families here to help you with your decision. If you already have a dog and you're soon to give birth, read on for some tips on how to introduce your new arrival to your pup.
To a dog, any changes in the home can seem enormous, so it’s best to prepare them early and gradually so that when baby does arrive, they can hardly tell any difference. According to the Blue Cross, there are a few important things to consider and ways to prepare your pooch for their new little brother or sister.
Handling - your dog should be very relaxed about being touched all over and remain relaxed. If they get excited when having a fuss or have any sensitive areas they don't like you to go near, it's a good idea to work on this and get their whole body used to being touched before baby is old enough to stroke the dog. If you're concerned about your pet's health, you should take them to the vet and make sure they are in tip top health before the baby arrives. You should also make sure you're always on top of flea and worming treatments now you have a baby.
Exercise - When your baby comes along, you'll not only have to control your dog while walking, you'll also have a pram to push too. If your dog has a tendency to pull on their lead or act up around other dogs, it's a good idea to train your dog to stop pulling before the baby arrives. You might even want to go out for a walk with the pram and dog before the baby arrives so your pup can get used to walking alongside a pram. Another rule when walking with a dog and pram is to never tie your dog's lead to the pram, this is very dangerous for obvious reasons. You might also want to consider the number of walks your dog has and at what time. If you think you might struggle to get out for a walk as much once baby is born, you might want to look into finding a dog walker.
Food - if your dog has a tendency to be greedy, you will need to train him to not beg or snatch food for when your baby begins weaning. It's also a good idea to make sure your dog has a quiet space to eat in peace, as your pooch won't like to be disturbed by a little person when eating.
New boundaries - if your dog has previously slept with you in bed or regularly relaxed on the sofa, consider whether or not this might change when the baby arrives. If you no longer want your dog to sleep in the bed or hop on the sofa whenever he feels like it, you'll need to introduce these new boundaries long before baby is born so they don't come as a shock to your dog.
If your baby’s already arrived, it’s not too late to put limits in place. Be consistent even if he finds them confusing at first, and reward good behaviour.
2. New sounds and smells
Introduce your baby’s items into your home before he or she arrives, so your dog has time to get used to the smell. After the birth, ask your partner to bring home a onesie your baby has worn so your dog can familiarise himself with the new scent.
You can also get a baby sound CD that features sounds of babies crying, gurgles and screaming to get the dog used to these new sounds. Play one while you do some obedience commands with your dog and gradually increase the volume over a few weeks so he gets used to behaving when he hears it.
Toys may also cause some confusion for your dog as both dog toys and baby toys can be bright in colour with funny sounds. Keep your dog's toys in a basket so their toys and baby's toys are clearly separate. You may now also want to reserve doggy playtime for outdoors only, so your dog will know if they pick up a toy indoors, they won't get playtime with you.
3. The first meeting
Keep the first encounter between your dog and baby calm and not forced, rewarding good behaviour with praise and treats.
It's a good idea to get someone to take your dog for a walk beforehand so he gets rid of some energy, then do the introduction in a neutral place, not where your dog sleeps or eats. Never scold or punish him if he appears uncomfortable – just remove him from the situation and try another time. It's important your dog always has a quiet place to go when they feel overwhelmed, so make sure their bed is located in a quiet corner of a room where they won't be disturbed.
Hold your baby in your arms and allow your dog to sniff your baby. You'll probably find they lose interest after a few seconds. When they back away, this is the time to praise them.
Supervise all interaction, even when your dog seems to have adjusted to your baby – animals can be unpredictable, as can small children.
4. Give him quality time
As a new mum, your focus will be firmly on your baby. So if you’re usually the one who spends the most time with your pup, encourage your partner to develop a closer relationship with him, so he still feels loved and cared for when you’re busy with your baby.
And try not to banish him outside, even if he’s getting in the way. Remember your dog won't understand what is going on, so make sure you set aside a few minutes a day to make a real fuss over him.
5. Consider obedience training
If your dog has bad habits and you’re struggling to bust them, consider obedience classes. Even if he had them as a pup, a refresher could really help. If possible, it’s best to do this early in your pregnancy.
The main aim is to train your dog to behave calmly – remaining on the floor until you invite him onto your lap, or not jumping on furniture that may soon have a newborn on it.
Watch: 9 tips on how to introduce your pet to your baby
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