I always advise that as soon as you are aware that there will be a new baby in the house, begin to prepare your family dog. Do not leave it until the new baby arrives. It is important that your dog associates the new baby with as few disruptions as possible.
It is essential to ensure that your dog has a basic understanding of good behaviour. The dog should be able to lie quietly for short periods, not jumping up, walking on a lead without pulling and coming when called are all essential.
Most dogs are used to being the "baby" in the family and may find it difficult losing this position. Get your dog used to being ignored and left alone for short periods of time every day. If it is your intention to exclude your dog from certain areas of the house after the baby arrives, establish these rules well in advance to the baby's arrival. Ideally, the dog should be excluded from the baby's bedroom.
It is a good idea to teach your dog to walk gently next to the pram, but never tying the leash to the pram, and never when unattended. The dog should also be accustomed to new items of furniture such as playpens, carry cots and high chairs before baby arrives. If possible get a tape recording of baby noises and play it in a tape recorder placed where the baby will normally be so the dog becomes socialized to these sounds. Also teach the dog the difference between his/her toys and the baby's toys.
Make sure that you develop a routine and stick to it when the baby arrives. It is important that the dog receives sufficient mental and physical stimulation. Try not to make a big deal with the dog about the arrival of the baby. Teach the dog how to approach the baby properly and gently. Allow the dog to make initial investigations and approaches.
Associate the baby's presence with positive things. Give the dog tidbits and lavish praise for desired behaviour around the baby. Do not place the baby on the floor with the dog and never shout at or hit your dog for approaching the baby incorrectly. Gently show the dog what you wish him/her to do and offer a reward for responding.
Due to the fact that a baby's immune system is not strong, ensure that your dog is healthy and is up to date with worming and vaccinations before baby arrives.
If your dog has any behavioural problems, make sure that you resolve these before baby arrives or if you are in doubt about your dogs behaviour after your baby arrives, consult your vet who can refer you to a local animal behaviour counselor.
NEVER leave any baby or child unattended with any dog.
Of course all the above rules must also apply when Grandchildren or visitors come over here for a few weeks, where dogs are not used to being or living with children.
Commitment, Firmness, but kindness.
New Baby and the Family Dog
by David the Dogman
David is a Canine Behaviourist who works and lives in Marbella, Spain. Tel/Fax (00345) 2883388. His web site is located at: www.thedogman.net. David has his own radio and TV shows, and writes for many newspapers and magazines. David has been working with dogs for many years and started his career in Israel, working on the Border Police. He has been involved in all forms of training, including air sea rescue, air scent work, and has trained dogs for finding drugs. David has devoted the past 10 years to studying behaviour and the very passive approach. He does not use choke chains, check chains, or any form of aggression.