I don’t teach that class yet, but it’s certainly something that you should schedule home visits for.
Bringing a new baby into your house is an exciting time, but if you don’t take the proper steps the introduction and the months thereafter can be a great source of anxiety.
People often suggest the old recommendation to bring home a blanket from the hospital to familiarize your dog(s) with the scent of the baby. This a great suggestion and first step to acclimating a new baby to the house! However, here are a few other things to consider if you are expecting, or if you have a new baby in your house and things aren’t going so well.
- Space is king – You must have control of your personal space when you bring a new baby into the house. If your dogs jump on you, bump you, etc., then you and your baby are in trouble. If you need to learn how to claim your personal space, check out this previous blog entry.
- Tighten up your rules – If you are the type who has your dog in bed and on the couches and all over you all the time, then it is time to reign them in a little bit. The last thing a nursing mom wants to worry about is a dog jumping onto her and her baby in the middle of feeding. Early on in the pregnancy it’s time to start changing the rules so your dogs learn to at least wait for permission to join you in intimate areas like the sofa or the bed. This way when the baby comes, they don’t associate the baby with the lack of the bed or the couch (which can result in jealousy and acting out).
- Secure the house – Assume your dogs won’t like the baby (though still think positively) and make sure you have plenty of ways to separate them in the house and to keep your baby safe in the environment. Here at our house, we have several baby gates set up to blockade the dogs away from the baby. But most importantly, I have used these gates as protection when doing introductions to the dogs. Allowing the dogs to sniff the baby through baby gates instead of in the open, assures that you will be in control of the situation while being able to gauge how your dogs feel about the baby before you move them on to the next step of their relationship.
- Include the baby - As long as your pediatrician is okay with it, include your baby on walks and other activities as soon as possible. The day after Hugo got home, I had him in a Baby Bjorn and walking with us on our pack walks. Dogs bond with dogs and humans by side by side walking, and since babies can’t walk yet, this is the best way to make that happen.
- Don’t mess with the routine – While babies are likely to alter your schedule slightly – mine has made me a little bit of a late starter – try to keep your dogs on a similar schedule. Try not to miss daily play time and daily walks. A messed up routine will lead to some messed up dogs, and that is the last thing you need. I’ve also found that keeping some semblance of my routine has kept my mood elevated as well instead of getting sucked into the first time parents zombification process.
- Soften the dog’s bite – This is something every house dog should work on all the time, but when a new baby comes into the house, you’re going to want your dog to have the gentlest of mouths possible if an accident ever does happen. Do this by going back to puppy school and handfeeding your dog – yelp and freeze when the dog bites too hard. If they don’t bite too hard, do it when they touch you at all just to be sure they know exactly how delicate our human skin is. This will pay off dividends in the future.
Prevention is key to keeping your baby safe. However, if your baby is already here, and your dog has begun acting out, make sure you consult a professional to keep your little one safe!