There may be nothing more stressful then wondering how your dog is going to get along with your new baby (or your friend’s, relative’s, etc.). And the scary news stories about attacks do nothing to calm those nerves.
And while you cannot account for everything and there is no SURE way to know beforehand how your dog will be, Robin Bennett, CPDT-KA, expert dog trainer and author of several books and even a DVD series on dog body language, gave us some great tips to help this very important introduction go smoothly.
What Should Owners do BEFORE Baby and Dog Meet?
Ideally, get some basic training for the dog. In particular I would work on leave it, wait (to get the dog to stop at the door as you go out), and also some boundary training to teach the dog to be comfortable staying outside a baby gate or in a room alone. Crate training would also be helpful if the dog hasn’t be crate trained. Also these things can help if the dog has never been around babies before
- baby sound CDS…to get the dog used to hearing cries and noises a baby makes
- Walking around while holding a baby – gets the dog used to seeing you in that position and helps mom learn how to give commands without using her hands!
- Resources such as the dogs and storks class are also good: http://familypaws.com and http://www.robinkbennett.com/
What Warning Signs Should Owners Look For In Their Dog’s Body Language?
I would watch for signs of arousal or stress when the baby cries (jumping at the baby, pacing, nervousness etc). You should let the dog calm down before having them meet. Also look for early warning signs such as stiffening, avoidance (if the dog wants to get away, let him!), growling, snapping.
How Should Owners be Prepared if Something Goes Wrong?
If you see signs of extreme avoidance or aggression I would just separate the dog from the baby and get assistance from someone who can evaluate the situation. I would also have baby gates available to easily separate the dog and baby when necessary. A crate can also be useful.
What Are Your Tips For the First Introduction?
Since mom will have been gone for a day or two, i would have someone hold the baby and let mom go in and greet the dog first. That way they can have some time to get reunited. Then bring the baby in and initially just let the dog get used to having the baby in the room. Allow some sniffing of the blanket or baby’s clothes. IF the dog is calm or when he calms down, you can hold the baby and allow the dog to sniff.
What Should Owners do If Something Goes Wrong?
This depends on the situation but typically I would just intervene by separating the baby and the dog. I don’t recommend punishing any growling from the dog because it does help to serve as an early warning signal before a bite. Punishing the growl can often just lead to a dog that bites without warning which is not what we want. However, growling does mean you need assistance from a trainer or behaviorist.
About the Author
Based in Tustin, Calif., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She also owns her own custom pet products company, A Fairytail House, where she makes personalized collars, leashes, beds, keepsake pillows and blankets, and anything else your imagine can think up. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.
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