Many pet owners give up their pets after they have had a baby. You hear them justify their action by saying things like “Oh, our dog was obsessed with the baby,” or “the dog peed every time we would give our attention to baby-it was getting too much!”, or that the “dog was aggressive towards the baby”. These situations can totally be avoided. Several experts have written books on ways to train your dog to welcome the baby and not be jealous of it. I will mention these resources in this guide along with other tips and things to expect when you have dog/s and a newborn baby at home.
Concerned about your newborn baby’s hygiene?
Experts like Michael Wombacher believe that having kids grow up in a home with dogs is actually very beneficial for their health. Here are some benefits of dogs and kids growing up together as explained by Mr. Wombacher:
- In this age of chronic, childhood obesity, studies have proven that kids who grow up with dogs are more active thereby reducing the rates of this epidemic.
- Depression rates in kids growing up with pets are lower. Suicide rates can also go down thanks to loving pets in the household.
- Newborn babies who grow up with dogs and dog hair have better immunity; they are less likely to fall sick with afflictions like colds, coughs etc.
Signs your dog is jealous of newborn
Most dogs do not have a problem when a new baby comes home. However, a pet’s routine is likely to change dramatically when parents spend sleepless nights nursing and calming a fussy baby. This can greatly affect your dog. It is this change in routine that can sometimes trigger aggression and jealousy in pets. Here are some signs that your dog is jealous of your newborn:
- Trying to do tricks to get your attention
- Peeing inside the home.
- Baking to get your attention while you are with baby
- Appetite changes
- Behavioral changes like out of context grooming, paw licking, etc.
Signs your dog is stressed or anxious
- When your dog is calm and relaxed you will not see much white around her eyes.
- Shaking-When your pet shakes fur as if wet, she is indicating that she is stressed.
- When she turns away, she is politely trying to say that she does not want to interact and would even be ‘more rude’ next time.
- Closed mouth- Teach this one to your kids. If your dog’s mouth is closed, she is uncomfortable.
- When a dog is anxious around baby, she will stick out her tongue and lick her lips.
- Yawning when surrounded by kids indicates that your pet needs your help. Do not mistake yawning for contentment.
Dog aggression towards baby
Statistics show that a child is more likely to be bitten in its own household by a pet dog than a dog it does not know. This has a lot to do with the child’s age, according to expert dog trainer John Rogerson. Seek professional help from a dog trainer or your vet if your dog shows following signs of aggression towards newborn (Reference Happy Kids, Happy Dogs by Barbara Shumannfang)
- Avoiding baby
- Leaves room when baby makes certain sounds/noises/movements
- Turning her head away or flicking her tongue during interaction
- Moving away a step or two
- Walking away when baby crawls behind her-teach children not to follow pets.
- Mouthing or using her teeth on body or clothes.
- Showing whites of eyes or dilated pupils
- Shallow panting with lips drawn back
- Growling, snapping, snarling, biting
- Staring intently and whining at your baby
Tell your dog you are pregnant
Dr. Lewis Kirkham (author of Tell Your Dog You’re Pregnant) believes that dog training for newborn baby’s arrival should begin when you first know you are expecting. A well prepared dog is more likely to accept a new baby with ease. Here are some tips:
1. Use baby and toy sounds around your dog
Your dog is going to be suddenly exposed to a host of sounds which can be alarming to him. You certainly do not want your dog to react in an aggressive manner. So, start playing baby sounds like baby crying, screaming, other baby-noises like cooing, sounds of toys, lullabies etc. Play these around your pet after you have exercised and walked him a bit. A tired dog is less likely to do anything violent.
2. Pretend that you are anxious and get up suddenly
Parents of newborn babies tend to get very anxious and make sudden movement. This can frighten your pet. So get him used to these actions and behaviors. Play the baby sounds and get up suddenly as if you are going to attend to your child. Let your pet follow you into the nursery. You can throw a tasty treat to your pet as you do these actions. The treat, sounds and your behavior will help prepare your dog for baby’s crying. Remember that you will have to continue this behavior training until your dog learns to accept all the baby sounds.
3. Add a ‘baby-size’ toy to the training
Hold the toy doll/teddy bear wrapped in a sheet, pretend to sing to it, and give all your attention to it. See how your pet reacts. Start talking all baby talk directed to the toy baby-this will let your pet know that the baby talk is no longer reserved for him alone.
On the day you bring baby home
- Get a friend or dog walker to aerobically exercise your pet for at least 30 minutes. This will tire your pet out and will make him less excitable and calmer when he meets baby for the first time.
- Enter the room with a baby-scented blanket. Sit down on a chair or sofa and ask dog to sit down as well. Greet the pet calmly.
- As long as your pet remains seated, speak calmly and smile at him. Give him a treat with praise. The moment your dog gets up, turn your back or walk out of the room.
- Your dog will be curious and will try to sniff the baby. This is fine. Learn to read body language. Is your pet wagging her tail? Do not reprimand your dog or yank on her collar or shove her away.
- If needed, practice with a doll first and equate the session with fun and pleasant-time by treating and praising your pet.
Never treat your pet roughly if s/he gets aggressive with your child. Aggression begets even more aggression. Teach older kids not to be active, boisterous and abrupt around your dog. When they behave appropriately, your dog will too.