Bonding with baby – Preparation is the key!
OK there is another new life coming into your home in the next few months and you are worried that fido or Trixiebell isn’t going to be the centre of attention any more. Will they get on, will they be jealous of the new baby? How do you keep everyone happy? Can you cope?
The good news is that if the due date isn’t for a few months there is plenty of time to get prepared when it comes to your dog. They may already know something is going on as you are probably preparing a nursery or painting or doing some kind of preparation for the baby coming home, they’ve noticed.
Now is the time to put down some ground rules for when baby comes, NOT when baby actually comes home. This means that by then these ground rules for your dog should already be ingrained and a habit. Rather than, not only a new human comes home but now your dog isn’t allowed to do certain things it was always allowed to do before, then you really will have your hands full!
Think about it, you are going to be feeding your baby very regularly, changing, trying to get some sleep etc so start with some ‘no dog zones’. The bedroom is a start as you will be spending a lot of time in here with your baby and you don’t want the dog under your feet or looking for your attention when you are trying to deal with a screaming baby. If your dog has always slept in your room or on your bed it is time to give him his own place to sleep, somewhere where he can actually be out of the way of all the noise and commotion too.
Start thinking about your dog’s routine and how it will fit around the new baby’s routine. If you are going to be up early or late it might be worth thinking about changing his walking routine or feeding routine. Do it now and get him used to it before the baby comes, then his world doesn’t become unrecognisable and he then starts to panic at all the changes. Dogs need their routines just like babies.
If you aren’t sure you can cope with the walking on top of everything else, why not think of paying a dog walker to take Fido or Trixiebell out at the same time every day and then you don’t have to worry about that part at all!
Baby gates aren’t just for toddlers, baby gates are great for separating space but your dog can still see everyone and still feel part of the family and not shut out completely. Put these in place now so your dog can get used to them and obviously make sure that they can’t get over them! Best to find that out now. Then when you do come home with baby he can see what is going on and smell and hear everything.
When baby arrives, bring back a blanket or something that smells of the new baby so your dog can smell it, he’ll also smell the new baby off you too. This will mean he will be more familiar with the smell before the baby even enters the home.
When you come home with your new arrival go and get the baby settled before you worry about the dog. If you have been putting new routines in practise this should be one of the major ones. When you come home or you are moving about the house, spend time actively ignoring your dog. This may sound harsh but most dogs have been given the information from us that they are the centre of attention by us making so much eye contact with them. This is like saying hello and starting a conversation with a dog. The dog then wants to carry on the conversation. Attention seeking dogs will do anything to ‘catch your eye’ and start that conversation. So by actively ignoring your dog regularly, on a day-to-day basis, your dog will start to learn that they only get your attention when you are good and ready to and not before. When baby comes it really will be when you are ready and not before!
Lastly, the introduction. This doesn’t have to happen as soon as you arrive home. Everyone will be tired and the baby may be sleeping. Do this when you feel relaxed and you have some time, like in the evening. Put the dog on their lead while mum comes in with baby and gets settled. If your dog gets excited about his lead, drop it and leave the room. Give him a few minutes and come back in, you want your dog to be nice and calm, not in a heightened state of excitement. Keep doing this until Fido knows he isn’t actually going anywhere and is calm, then lead him into the room.
Sit in a chair away from mum and baby and ignore the dog. Just have a chat and relax and wait until Fido is relaxed to. If he starts getting too excitable, jumping or barking, just lead him back into another room and leave him again. He will soon learn he must be calm when he comes in where the baby is. If however fido remains calm after a 10 minutes in the room, move a little closer and sit and chat again. The idea is to eventually get to sit beside each other, with Fido on his lead being calm and relaxed. With some dogs this might happen in one session. With others this may take quite a few sessions.
They will get it eventually, you are teaching them how you wish them to behave around the baby and what is acceptable if they wish to remain in the room with you. Remember dogs take their cues from us and if we make nothing of it and are calm and relaxed, they will be too.
And finally, Never, Never leave a baby or small child unsupervised with your dog. This is as much for your dog’s safety as for your child. Your dog is an instinctive and reactive creature and should never be left to make a decision on it’s own when it comes to young and unpredictable infants and toddlers.
I hope this helps you have confidence in your dog and your baby being around one another. It can be done and there are so many benefits to having a dog around a home with children. It just takes a little thought and practise to do it right and get it right.
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Bernie – The Dog Owners Coach