The arrival of a new baby is a big event for the entire family, pets included. Dogs unfamiliar with the sights and sounds of a newborn may react inappropriately, so acclimate your pet in the months before the baby's arrival. Keeping your pet comfortable makes interactions with children much safer.
Even the most patient pup eventually tires of physical harassment. Your baby won't know when to stop poking and prodding the pet, so train your dog to tolerate rough handling before the two get near each other. Gently poke your finger into your dog's side or legs, then immediately reward her with a small treat. Do this five times during each session, then take a break. Conduct four to eight of these sessions throughout the day, gradually increasing the force of the jabs every few days, according to the ASPCA. Repeat this basic pain-reward training with other types of interactions, like pulling your pet's ears and tugging on her fur.
Your dog doesn't understand that the baby is a human like his owner, so he may see the baby as a threat or prey. Spend a few minutes crawling around on the floor near your dog every day so he's used to seeing people on all fours. Play recordings of screaming, crying and other baby sounds around your dog so he's accustomed to the strange and unpleasant sounds that newborns make, according to the Animal Humane Society. Reward your dog with treats throughout each experience. Start with low volume and turn it up a little bit each day until your pet tolerates even the shrill shrieks and loud crying.
Safety Zone and Barriers
Always supervise interactions between your dog and baby. Even if your dog tolerates the child, you want to make sure the baby isn't hurting or annoying your pet. Never let babies crawl up to your pet's bowls, into his crate or near his toys. Keep all of your dog's belongings in a separate area of the house that is blocked by gates or closed doors. Your dog needs a place to hide when the baby is too much for her to handle. Personal space gives your dog more control over much interaction she has with the baby. Knowing she can flee makes her more comfortable with the experience.
As you acclimate your dog in preparation for the baby's arrival, there are a few other things you can do to make the relationship safer for everyone. Train your dog to respond to basic commands, like sit and stay, so you can control him if he gets too excited around the baby. Take your pet to the vet for a checkup and consider having him fixed if he's still intact, according to The Humane Society of the United States. Speak with a dog trainer or behavioral consultant if your pet has reacted aggressively in the past or is persistently disobedient. Scold your dog when he jumps up or puts his paws on you. Ignore him after the verbal reprimand, until he understands that he won't get attention this way.
Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more tan 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.