PREPARING DOGS FOR NEWBORNS
1. Get Basic Training Out of The Way
Ideally, as soon as parents-to-be know that a baby will be coming into the family, the canine family member will be provided with training if it hasn't been done before. Commands such as "sit," "down," "stay," and "back up" are very helpful when it comes to managing a dog around new infants.
2. Make Preemptive Changes To Routine
A while before the baby come home, think about any other household changes you need to make that will affect "Spot". For example, if he's used to sleeping in your bed, begin introducing him to his own brand-new bed. If you think you're going to send him to doggie day care more often, let him get adjusted to the change in routine ahead of time.
3. Introduce "Spot" to Unusual Baby Items
The little one will have swings, rocking seats, and toys in what had been "Spot's" domain. As soon as possible, show "Spot" the new items so that he has, for example, seen the swing move before there is a baby in it, and he knows what it means when you say "Leave it!" when it comes to baby toys.
4. Get Spot Ready for Crying
If your dog is sound-sensitive and you think he may be nervous when the baby cries, you can expose him to crying baby sounds via a CD. Starting with quieter cries, you can gradually crank up the sound until "Spot" is a pro at listening to a wailing baby.
5. Begin Smell-Therapy
After the baby is born but before they come home, have your husband bring a blanket or shirt from the baby to "Spot" so he can become familiar with his/her scents before he meets them.
6. Plan a Proper Introduction
"Spot" will probably be curious and anxious to meet the new member of his family the minute they arrive. To make sure he doesn't jump on you when you come home from the hospital, it's a good idea for you to get in the room and be sitting when "Spot" comes in to meet the baby for the first time. If "Spot" is a very active dog, have a helper bring him into the room on a leash. Praise "Spot" for being calm and well-behaved.
7. Give "Spot" Plenty of Exercise and Play Time
It's only natural for new parents to find themselves focusing all of their time and attention on the littlest family members. But in order to keep the household happy for everyone, make sure "Spot" still gets daily exercise and play sessions. This is extremely important for having a calm, mellow dog. If you just can't do it all, consider getting a temporary personal assistant for "Spot". There might be a neighborhood teenager who would be happy to take a dog for a walk and play with him.
Finally, it's important to remember that when little ones and pets are together, an adult should always be present. As a matter of fact, AKC Canine Good Citizen Responsible Dog Owners pledge that children and dogs should always be supervised when together. This applies to when the babies are infants and when they get older. Keeping an eye out on all of your family members will keep everyone safe and sound.
Mary Burch, American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Director and Paw Nation's expert columnist addressing your questions on animal behavior. Dr. Burch has over 25 years of experience working with dogs, and she is one of fewer than 50 Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists based in the United States. She is the author of 10 books, including the new official book on the AKC Canine Good Citizen Program, "Citizen Canine: 10 Essential Skills Every Well-Mannered Dog Should Know."