Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Introducing Your Dog to Your New Baby

Introducing your dog to your new baby needs to be a gradual process. Your pet will need time to adjust to the newest family member. Since your dog was likely your first baby, he is used to being the center of attention. It's completely natural for your dog to feel something like sibling rivalry when you bring your new baby home. You can help your dog accept his new role by taking a few simple steps.

Start by having your pet spayed or neutered if they aren't already. Sterilized pets are calmer and more likely to behave. They also will have fewer health problems associated with their reproductive systems.

Next, you will want to review your dog's obedience training. Knowing commands like ‘down’, ‘stay’ and ‘leave it’ will be immensely helpful when the baby arrives. It's important to be sure he will reliably and consistently behave for you. Ideally, start addressing behavior problems as early into your pregnancy as possible to give yourself enough time to teach your dog some key commands. If your pet exhibits fear and anxiety, now is the time to get help from an animal behavior specialist while your life is still relatively uncomplicated.

The time and energy needed to care for a newborn leaves less time for your dog. When the baby comes home, your dog will no longer be receiving the same amount of attention he was accustomed to. Gradually reduce the amount of time your pet is spending with you. If your pet is particularly bonded to the expectant mother, another family member should start establishing a closer bond with him. Drastically decreasing attention or isolating your pet after the baby is born will only produce stress. Though you will be tired, it is still important to spend special quality time with your pet.

While it's important to maintain your dog's daily schedule, you can gradually adjust his timetable by making changes at least a month or so before the baby arrives. If his exercise routine will change from leash walks to backyard time, it is best to start making the change ahead of time. Put up baby gates so that your dog gets used to the restricted movement. Early and gradual changes in daily routines and physical environment can help make the adjustment easier for your pet once the baby comes home.

Sprinkle baby powder on your skin and/or a baby blanket. Leave the blanket around the house so that your dog becomes familiar with the scent. You can also use a baby doll to get your dog used to baby routines such as bathing and diaper changing. Put the doll in the stroller and take it on walks with you so that your dog gets used to both the stroller and its occupant. Purchase a CD of infants crying and play it at gradually increasing volume to get your dog acclimated to the sound. Make sure to give your dog calm, quiet praise during this time so that he associates all of these new sounds, smells and routines with positive things.

When you return from the hospital, your dog will be eager to greet you. Let someone else take the baby into another room while you give your dog a warm, calm welcome. After you are done with your greeting, you can bring your pet to sit next to the baby. Reward him with treats for appropriate behavior. You want your dog to have only positive experiences with your newest family member. Never force your pet to get near the baby. If you feel comfortable, allow him to sniff tiny feet and hands. Once his curiosity is satisfied, most dogs will ignore the newborn. For the sake of safety, even the most accepting and gentle dog should never be left alone with an infant, whether your baby is awake, sleeping, in a carrier, or on the floor.

For more information on introducing your family pet to your new infant, please visit the following websites:

Introducing Your Pet to a New Baby

Introducing an Infant to a Resident Dog

Introducing Your Pet and New Baby

"Bowser Meets Baby" or How to Introduce Your New Baby to the Family Dog

Introducing a New Baby

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