This article was written by Paula Bergeron of Good Dogma Canine Rehabilitation and Training Center.
There is so much to do when getting ready for a new baby. One area that many people overlook is how to prepare their dog for the new
arrival. I receive many calls from concerned new parents who
have become frightened about their dogs behavior around their baby. Many are
contemplating finding a new home for their dog because the thought of trying to
deal with their dog and their new baby is overwhelming. The best answer to these problems is to
tackle them before baby arrives.
Start with a good
foundation. If you have not already taken your dog to an obedience class, do it
now, before the baby comes. If you can trust your dog to sit, come,
stay, wait,and lay down then you can
begin to shape his/her behavior to accommodate your needs as you take care of
Lets begin by teaching your dog to give you and your baby space with
the basic command of “back”.
Start by putting a boundary around you such as a 3ft. square made of
tape on the floor, or stand in the middle of a small area rug. Have treats in your pocket…
and have a blanketed doll in your arms.
As your dog comes towards you say “back” and walk straight into your dog until
they back up so that they are off the rug or out of the square…
say “good dog” and treat. Go back and stand in the middle…
as your dog comes forward repeat the action saying “back” treat once the dog gets behind the
barrier. Once your dog begins to
understand that they need to give you space… do the activity again but only give
the treat if your dog stays behind the barrier after you walk back to the
middle… you can treat them by either rolling the treat to them on
the floor… or having a friend treat the dog outside of the
barrier. When your dog begins to
understand that you want that 3 foot space around you, take the tape or rug
away, and repeat the the exercise by asking your dog to be “back” having him back up about 3 feet. The next
step is to begin to say back as you move… much like you might be doing ,say
nine months from now, when you are soothing a fussy baby. As your dog comes to investigate.. say back
giving a “gooooood boy” in a
soothing voice when he/she gives you that 3 foot space.
Designate the baby’s room as a dog free zone. This
ensures that your dog will not interfere with diaper changes, nursing, or
soothing an infant. Frustration can run
high if you are dealing with a fussy baby, and believe me you are not going to
want a wet nose trying to make its way into a dirty diaper when you just want to get back to sleep. Practice with your dog by opening the nursery
door keeping him on the other side using your new command “back”. You can even place some tape on the floor to
remind him/her that they is not allowed to cross that barrier.
Practice with your dog the behavior you want to see when he/she
greets your baby. Have your dog on the
leash and a friend to help with this exercise. Using a doll allow your dog to
sniff,,, but only when he/she is “gentle.”
Have your assistant treat and calmly say “good gentle” when
the sniff is soft and the movements are calm. Then say your dogs name and “back” having your assistant treat your dog when
they back away form the bundle in your arms.“ It is important to keep these
exercises as calm as possible as you want your dog to associate baby
interaction with calm behavior.
Your dog is going to continue to need structured exercise when your
baby comes home, especially since
everything else will be is so exciting and new.
You can learn how to walk your dog with a baby stroller or carriage but
you will want to practice this before the baby is actually in the
carriage or stroller. Have your dog walk
in the heel position behind the stroller. If you are struggling to control both
dog and stroller have a friend push the
stroller as you walk your dog in the
heel position until your dog is comfortable enough so you can hold the leash
and the stroller at the same time. If however this proves to be unmanageable,
consider hiring a dog walker for the days you are not able to walk the dog
Bringing the new baby home should be a joyful and exciting time
in your life. Make sure it is not clouded by concerns that your dog is not safe
around your baby. Be prepared, decide
how you want your dog to act, then set up exercises so your dog can learn the
wanted behavior and then practice, practice, practice. It will be some of the best preparation you
can do to ensure your new family can live safely and happily together! Happy Training!