As a member of a household of two dogs and an energetic toddler, one of the most satisfying things for me since my son’s birth three years ago has been watching his developing relationship with our dogs, and to see the love he has for all dogs in general. And yet, I also have to be watchful. Though I know and trust my dogs, any dog (it can’t be emphasized enough) should never be left alone with a small child, even for a minute. We’ve all seen the tragic results of ignoring this essential rule all too often on the news. Even the sweetest dogs have their limits, and as resilient as newborns and infants can be, it is easy for a dog to injure them without even intending to do so.
Short of this, countless dogs are re-homed or surrendered to a shelter because of the arrival of a new child. But think about it from their perspective. Your dog’s life and routine have been suddenly upended. This new noisy, smelly…thing…is suddenly the center of attention and their humans have little energy left over for favorite activities like games or walks, or even a good belly rub. It is stressful for your dog, and your dog will let you know it.
Here at DogBoy’s, one of the one night seminars we offer is one specifically for expectant dog parents, “Welcoming the New Human Arrival.” Our wonderful training staff goes over all the do’s, don’ts, whys and wherefores of introducing a new two-legged member into your household that already has four-legged ones. Here are some general tips, which are only the beginning of what the seminar covers:
DO: Encourage your dog to start investigating baby furniture and toys as you receive them and begin setting them up in the weeks before your child’s arrival. Reward him when he does. You can start building positive associations with the baby even before her arrival.
DO: Decide ahead of time what your boundaries are when it comes to your dog’s interaction with your child. Is sniffing OK? What about a lick? Knowing ahead of time will let you be consistent from the day you bring baby home from the hospital.
DO: Start reducing your dog’s status before your child’s arrival. That means start doing things like not letting your dog sleep in the bed or bedroom and for smaller dogs, not carrying them around—that elevates their status. Status is everything to a dog and any changes in it need to be handled with care.
DON’T: Let anyone else shoo your dogs off baby if that is something you’re okay with. You don’t want your dogs to think coming around their new housemate will bring punishment. You also don’t want them to be confused by mixed messages.
DON’T: Freak out if your dog growls. First, it’s important to know why he’s doing it. Second, a growl is a dog’s warning; a warning you will want to have as your child gets older and begins testing the limits of the dog’s tolerance for herself. The last thing you want to do is take that warning away and leave a bite as your dog’s only recourse.
DO: Make time for your dog. It’s probably the most difficult thing to do when a new child comes into the house, especially in those first few months of multiple late night feedings and diaper changes. Still, the sacrifice will be worth it. If you can, take advantage of visits by family and friends to carve out some time with your dog while they are giving baby lots of attention. Your dog—and eventually your child—will thank you!
UPDATE: Congratulations to the Butler Bulldogs, who made it all the way to the final game against Duke and gave the mighty Blue Devils a run for their money. Go Bulldogs!
by Jay Robison