You’re having a baby. Congratulations! Unfortunately your dog might be less excited than you are.
I’ve been a professional dog trainer in the San Francisco Bay area for more than 20 years and I can tell you from experience that a new baby could present big problems for you and your dog. It’s a problem I had not anticipated when I first began training dogs.
Neither do most people but it’s a mistake to not take it seriously.
Dog and Baby: Zoe The Jealous Jack Russell Terrier
I remember one of my first encounters with this issue: I advised a young pregnant couple who owned a high-intensity, moderately neurotic Jack Russell Terrier that we should give some thought to preparing their dog for baby’s arrival.
“Oh, she’ll be fine, she loves kids,” they assured me.
“It would be better not to make that presumption,” I said and outlined a few things they could do to prepare “Zoe” for the new child.
These included obedience exercises, preparing Zoe to spend periods of time alone during the day, advice on how to move her out of her central social position in their household and being sure not to indulge Zoe in a last “hurrah” of attention and affection prior to baby’s arrival.
But that couple felt they knew their dog better than I did and sadly, they disregarded my suggestions. Predictably, three months after the baby’s arrival, the parents felt overwhelmed with a new infant and an intensely jealous and increasingly difficult to manage dog. In the end, they gave Zoe away.
Failing To Plan Has Dire Consequences
I witnessed many such unfortunate endings between people and their dogs after the introduction of a baby into a household. What was once a loving and presumably “forever” relationship, ended on a terrible note.
In fact, just in the last six weeks I have been forced to advise three separate couples to rehome their dogs – some of them 8 and 9 years old – because they had either bitten their baby or were just a shade shy of doing so. And in every case this would almost certainly have been preventable with a little bit of forethought and planning.
The sobering truth is that there is a reason why 80 percent of reported dog bites happen to children under 5 (and 80 percent of those are in the face). And the reason often has a lot less to do with the dog than with the owner’s failure to take seriously the “interface noise” that can occur when bringing an infant into a home where the dog has previously been an only child.
A Few Things Can Make All The Difference
Here’s the thing: it doesn’t have to be this way. That’s the point of this website and online community.
Just doing a few simple things can make all the difference between initiating a long-term loving relationship between dog and baby and rehoming, or in a worst case scenario, euthanizing your beloved family companion.
Taking stock now of behaviors that might be problematic and working to address them well before baby arrives is a huge step in the right direction. After all, if you are going to have to change some of your dog’s behaviors in ways that he or she might not like, it’s best to prevent your dog from associating such changes with the arrival of your child.
And having a dog whose “issues” are worked out before the demands of an infant consume all your attention will make your life infinitely easier.
A Lifetime of Fun & Friendship
After two decades of intensive work with hundreds of expecting parents, I have learned that taking the time to prepare your dog for your baby can ensure a beautiful and smooth transition, one that will lead to a lifetime of fun and friendship.
It’s important to be proactive. Time, after all, is short. Yet at the same time in most cases there is enough of it. From the moment you find out you are pregnant to your baby’s first crawl (at about 8 months old – which is when so many of the problems really start), you essentially have 16 months to prepare your dog for what’s coming.
So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get going.
Want to learn more about preparing your dog for the arrival of your baby? Check out my book: Good Dog, Happy Baby