Is your dog intensely jealous of your affections? Does she always try to come between you and your spouse when you get close? Then naturally her reaction towards the new addition in the family who will certainly grab all the attention may not be pleasant. You need to prepare her for the change to be followed so as to make her interactions with the new baby safe. It’s hard for a dog who’s always been treated like a baby to roll over and play dog when a real baby appears on the scene. But that’s exactly what she’ll have to do when her place in your heart has to be shared by that tiny but threatening new addition you’ll soon be bringing home from the hospital. Though a little initial moping around may be unavoidable, you’ll want to do whatever you can to prevent excessive jealousy and, of course, any aggressive reactions. Start now,
- Invest in an obedience training programme for your dog if she isn’t trained already – and even if you’ve never felt there was the need for it before. Friskiness and puppy-like exuberance aren’t usually a problem in a childless home, but they could be in one with a new baby. Particularly because the baby’s behaviour won’t be controllable or predictable, your dog’s must be. Obedience training won’t take the spirit out of your pet, but it will make her more stable, and thus less likely to harm your baby.
- Get your dog used to babies now, if you can. Invite friends with babies over to the house, or let her (under careful supervision, and if the parent is willing) sniff near a baby in the park or be petted by a toddler, so that she can become familiar with their smells and their moves. Alternatively you can apply baby powder or baby oil on yourself to make your pet familiar with the smell.
- Get your dog used to the life with a baby in the house. Use a baby-size dolls as a prop in her training. Put a nappy on the doll; carry, sing to, and rock it; nurse it; put it to bed in the cot; take it for a walk in the pram (if you don’t mind the neighbours staring). Now and then play a tape of a baby crying.
- Take your dog for a complete medical checkup. Be sure that your dog is flea and tick-free (ask your vet about using a pill or another method that’s effective against these pests yet safe to use around your baby). Also be sure to have your dog checked for worms of any kind.
- If your dog’s feeding station is one your baby will later be able to get to easily, move it to the cellar, garage or some other area that doesn’t invite a curious crawler, since even an easy going dog can become vicious when her food is threatened. If you live in a small apartment, get your dog on an evening feeding schedule and remove her food dish during the day. Don’t even leave her food around when the dog is safely outside, because they may pose a choking hazard if your baby manages to swallow it.
- After delivery, but while you’re still in the hospital or birthing centre, have your spouse bring home an unwashed piece of clothing your newborn has worn so that your pet can become familiar with the baby’s scent. When you arrive home, let your spouse hold the baby while you greet your pet. Then to satisfy her curiosity, let the dog sniff the baby who should be well swaddled, with head and face protected by your arms. Once the baby’s snug in the cot, break out a special treat for the dog and spend a little time alone with her.
- Be attentive to your new baby, of course, but don’t act overprotective around your dog. This will only make the animal more jealous and insecure. Instead, as you would with a human sibling (though on a different level, naturally), try to get your pet involved with the new addition and let her know she’s still a loved member of the family. Pet her while you nurse, walk her while you take the baby out in the pram, allow her into the baby’s room while you’re there. Try to make a point of spending at least five minutes every day alone with her. But should she show even the slightest aggressiveness towards your baby, reprimand her immediately.
- If, despite your efforts to prepare and reassure her, your dog seems hostile towards the new arrival, keep her tied up and away from the baby until you re sure she’s worked out her feelings. Just because a dog has never bitten before doesn’t mean she’s not capable of it under duress. If tying up the dog only adds to her hostility you may have to consider finding another home for her.