Dogs and Babies Question

QUESTION

We are the owners of Chief, a five year old Dalmatian. Chief is a great dog who loves to play and sometimes he can very stubborn too. Chief has a big back yard to live in during the daytime. At night he sleeps inside by our bedside. He is like a big baby to us, and we love him very much. I am now four months pregnant with my first child. When the baby comes Chief may feel left out, because our focus will not always be on him. Will this cause problems with his behavior? He has not been around many children during his life. Will he be afraid of our baby? We have many concerns, and hope we can trust Chief around the baby. If you have any advice or training tips about this matter, please let us know. Thank you for your time.
Darlene and Joseph Binder

ANSWER

All expecting parents should consider ‘prenatal’ training for their lovable canines. Start planning early for the baby’s arrival. It is important to set rules and boundaries for your canine and stick with them. Consider these training concepts while you build the nest!
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Obedience Training
Obedience training speaks for itself. Practice on leash obedience training a minimum of three times a week. Reestablish your canine’s boundaries inside the house. Teach the ‘leave it’ command, and work on the long down/stay. Verbal control of your dog will be a must with a little toddler crawling around the house.
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Socialization
Start socializing your dog around children and babies as soon as possible. Let your canine observe children at play first, gradually moving to treat training by the children. It is important to keep your canine’s stress level down during these interactions. If you notice any anxiety or aggressive behavior move away from the distraction immediately! Your dog’s tolerance level of children will increase with time and food treats!
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Prenatal activities
Do not isolate your canine from your own preparation for the new baby. Allow your dog in the baby’s room to get familiar with the new smells and sounds. Observe your canine as he sniffs baby’s blanket, toys, clothes, etc. Expecting mothers can comfort a baby-sized doll a few minutes each day, to help desensitize their dog.
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Who’s watching the dog?
Arrange feeding and walking for your canine while you are at the hospital. Keeping the same routine for your dog while you are away will help with the new arrival.
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When the baby arrives.
Daddy should present an item with the baby’s smell on it to the dog for inspection before mother and baby come home from the hospital. This will help your canine recognize and accept the new family member.
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New Toys for Pooch.
Arriving home with a new baby and new squeaky toys for the dog will work wonders for the anxious canine. Make the new arrival of baby a positive one for your canine superstar!
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When you get home.
It is a good idea for dad to hold the child, and let mom greet her love starved canine like she always has. Behavior directed to the dog should not change when baby comes home. With mom and baby sitting in a chair, let the dog observe and smell around baby. I do not recommend letting your canine lick the baby or any ‘touch’ sniffing. Never leave infant and dog unattended.
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Include dog in family activities.
Baby and dog interaction should be as natural as possible. Teach your canine to walk beside the stroller, what a great way to bond! Isolating your canine from family activities could initiate bad behavior.
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The arrival of a new baby is an exciting time for every one, particularly to your dog. Adjustment time towards the new baby can be greatly reduced with proper training and planning. Train for control, practicing several times a week. Keep your dog’s daily routine the same, after the baby comes. Remember to include your canine in numerous baby activities. Make interaction a positive experience for your dog and acceptance of the child will happen naturally!