Ellen Britt for CNT #wooftips
Bringing a new baby home is an exciting and momentous step for everyone in the family and this includes your dog.
You’ll have nine months to prepare for your baby’s arrival and during this time, you need to work on your dog’s behavior to make sure he is well trained and he sees you as her leader. If this means working with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist, then by all means do this, as the safety of your child comes first.
Assuming your baby is born at the hospital, you’ll want to bring an item home that has your baby’s scent on it prior to the baby’s arrival at your house. A burp cloth or a blanket that has been used with the baby or other item of clothing will work.
Hold the item at a distance from your dog and invite her to sniff it, communicating to your dog that the item belongs to you.
The baby’s nursery is strictly off limits, especially at first. Later, with your supervision, your dog can come in and explore and sniff around. You need to set defininite limits on this and decide when time is up and she needs to leave. Do this several times before your baby’s arrival so your dog clearly understands and respects this space as yours.
Once your baby is ready to come home, take your dog for a long walk or otherwise exercise her vigorously until she is very tired. While you are out with the dog, have mom or grandmama bring the baby into the house.
Then with your dog on the leash, wait at the door until she is completely calm before you allow her to enter. Once inside, your dog will know instantly there is a new person in the house because she will immediately pick up on your baby’s scent.
Allow her to sniff your baby respectfully from a distance. Gradually allow her to come closer over time, always controlling her approach.
Caution: Never Leave An Infant Or Small Child Alone With A Dog!
Always closely supervise interactions between your baby and your dog. Never, ever leave an infant or small child alone with a dog, even for a few moments. Do not assume that because your dog is not a certain breed that there won’t be a problem. As your child grows a bit older, teach him not to provoke the dog by pulling her tail and so forth. Even the most placid dog has her limits.
Some new parents believe they have to “baby” their dog after their new arrival so the dog won’t get jealous. This is not really necessary. Your dog needs the maintenance of her routine and daily exercise to feel secure.
If you have taken all the steps above, including working with a professional dog behaviorist and you still do not feel perfectly confident about the safety of your baby with your dog, then you may have to make the painful decision to find your dog another home. The safety of your child always comes first.
By Ellen Britt
Dr. Ellen Britt has loved dogs since she was a child. She is particularly fond of the Northern breeds, especially Alaskan Malamutes. Ellen worked as a PA in Emergency and Occupational Medicine for two decades and holds a doctorate (Ed.D.) in biology.