Caring for a new baby brings myriad challenges, especially for parents experiencing the birth of their first child. When you combine a new baby with a puppy, or even an old dog, you face many questions about how to ensure that the two can interact safely. Dogs can hurt small children, but small children are also quite capable of hurting dogs. Understanding where to go and who to talk to is an important step in building a safe environment for your child and your pup.
Take a Training Class
Enrolling your dog in training classes is responsible pet ownership. Doing so when you bring a new baby home is common sense. Experienced dogs can use a refresher, while young dogs will learn appropriate behaviors and basic training. Additionally, you’ll receive the tools necessary for troubleshooting behavior problems and teaching your dog new ways to act. Group classes generally last around eight weeks and give you and your dog an opportunity to be led by a trainer through basic obedience in the presence of other dogs and dog owners. Your trainer can give you general advice on safe play between dogs and children.
Consult a Behaviorist or Trainer
While training classes help form a solid foundation for dog behavior, speaking directly to a behaviorist or working one-on-one with a trainer is a much more powerful option that provides you with detailed, situation-specific advice. No two homes are alike, just as no two dogs are alike. Bringing your concerns to a trainer or behaviorist gives you the opportunity to receive tailored advice relevant to the concerns you have for the safety of your child and your dog. One-on-one training is also more effective at solving extreme behavioral problems than group classes, which are usually targeted at basic obedience.
Talk to Your Pediatrician
Your pediatrician is responsible for helping you keep your child healthy and safe. She will likely have plenty of advice to offer regarding how and when to introduce your puppy to your child, how to ensure they get along safely, and how to keep both protected from potential illness or infection. Dogs are often not the cleanest of animals, and a baby’s immune system is underdeveloped. Keeping your infant safe around the dog, then, does not revolve entirely around preventing bites or pulled tails.
Ask Other Parents
One of the most important things new parents should remember is that other parents have faced most of the same problems at some point in the raising of their children. Talking with other parents about problems they’ve faced and the solutions they’ve found can give you ideas on how to solve problems on your own. While not all advice from other parents is worth implementing, and some will conflict with your own parenting style, talking to other parents with dogs in the house is a valuable opportunity to learn more about the interplay of animals and children.
Use Web Resources
The Internet is filled with useful information on training dogs, raising healthy children and encouraging a safe environment between animals and kids. The BabyCenter website, staffed by experts, covers the topic, and the ASPCA has a few posts regarding training dogs to interact with kids in a safe manner. You’ll find many informative articles on the web regarding this particular issue -- but be careful to take the advice of professional trainers and animal behavior specialists or established experts in the field of child raising. Don't assume a website is accurate; look into the credentials of the author and the site.