Having a baby and getting ready for the big day? Don't forget about the importance of planning ahead and making sure your dog is ready for the arrival of your new baby.
Here are some training tips you can practice before the baby arrives. I have many clients that hire me months ahead of time to work on these strategies. You can avoid surprises by practing well in advance.
- Use a baby doll as a prop to get used to holding a baby while you are walking the dog, managing his behavior and moving around the house.
- Practice changing the baby diaper, giving the a bath, etc. using the doll. This will help determine what behaviors such as STAY or NO JUMPING that you need to work on for “hot moments”.
- Get a CD with baby noises and start playing it so your dog hears the noises and it becomes part of the normal environment.
- Create positive associations by giving your dog treats whenever he sees children. Be especially aware of when children are running and shouting and give extra treats when these events happen.
- Teach a rock-solid LEAVE IT, STAY, DROP IT, DOWN, OFF, and GO TO MAT, COME.
- Introduce your dog to all the baby items before the baby is home. Work on a strong LEAVE IT with any items not to be touched by your dog.
- Create positive associations with items such as the stroller. Every time your dog goes near the stroller (without jumping up on it) give him a yummy treat.
- Practice orientation of the helper person when the baby arrives for hot moments such as changing a diaper. You don’t want to put yourself in a bad training situation where you are changing a diaper by yourself and having to control your dog’s activities. There should be a designated trainer to help practice initially.
- Work on managing your dog’s movement using baby gates, dog-proofing a room, or getting a crate for him to be in. You can’t expect him to always obey commands. Sometimes he needs to be distanced from the situation and you don’t want him to be agitated and bark continuously during these times.
- If there is anyway to bring something home with the baby’s scent on it before you come home, this is a good way to start positive associations and help your dog get used to the new smells.
- Have someone else hold the baby and have the new mom go in first. You want to avoid a negative association the first time your dog meets the baby to be greeted with a stressful, understandable shout because he is jumping on the new baby and mother.
- Start the greeting from a safe distance away and have your dog do behaviors to keep his mind occupied. Make sure that there is no jumping, fast movements and shouting in reaction. Use a leash if you are not absolutely sure of safety.
- Do repeated short greetings, make it pleasant, and then manage your dog if there is any risk of jumping or anxiety.
- You need to create consistent, identifiable behaviors for your dog to follow. If there are rooms that are off-limits, for instance, you should use a combination of management using baby gates or closing doors and training.
- ALWAYS supervise contact between your dog and the baby.
- Set aside appropriate time periods to give your dog the exercise and attention he needs. Sometimes inappropriate behavior is identified as “jealousy” when in reality it is just under-exercise and stimulation.
- Find other ways to exercise and stimulate your dog through games, hide and seek, training sessions, etc.
- Always let him know when he is acting appropriately whether that means not jumping, being gentle around the baby, being calm, etc.
Keep him supplied with new, exciting chew toys to give him chewing stimulation. Make sure he likes them, and remove them for safety and to keep them novel when he is not using them.