This post originally appeared in American Dog Magazine
Congratulations! You’re pregnant and your “pack” is about to grow. Right now you’re probably asking yourself: “is there any chance that my dog might bite my child?” If not, you should be. Otherwise, you may end up unexpectedly re-homing your dog. And one thing you should be on guard for is this: is your dog jealous of baby?
Start Preparing Your Dog For Your Baby Right Now
It’s important to identify the changes you need to make in the life of your dog once your baby arrives and implement them NOW! You don’t want your dog to associate those changes with the arrival of your child.
Why? That will just set up a jealous dynamic. And trust me, you definitely don’t want your dog jealous of baby.
What kind of changes are we talking about? Here are a few to consider. Is your dog sleeping in bed with you? Is she pushy and demanding or does she engage in annoying behaviors?
You might tolerate these antics now, but they may seriously compromise the quality of your life with a baby on the scene.
Establish Who’s Boss
To address concerns like these, start building a relationship with your dog where she is in the habit of consistently taking direction from you. In other words, you’re the boss.
Simple things like always giving your dog a command before you have an interaction with him, not letting him run out the door ahead of you, and being a little aloof with him can do a world of good, inspiring him to cheerfully accept your leadership.
Additionally, you want to develop positive associations for your dog with the presence of your child. To do this, start by teaching your dog to tolerate a few hours of alone time every day.
Create Boundaries & Set Limits
Then create areas in your house which are no-go zones for your dog and use them to build buffer zones into her relationship with your child. That is, start by making the baby’s room off limits.
Once you handle that, allow your dog to enter only with your permission and accompaniment. Once inside, always ask for obedience exercises, especially down-stays. Soon he’ll learn that when he enters he’s to do a down-stay in the corner.
Let’s pull all this together. Once your baby arrives, allow your dog to come into the baby’s room only with you and then assume his downstay. If you leave him alone for a few hours prior to that he will welcome the contact with you and your child as well as behave himself appropriately.
In other words, the presence of your child means a positive social engagement for him, as well as trigger-safe behavior.
Exercises like these can teach your dog to accept your child as a beloved pack member and ultimately best friend.
Friends For Life
There are other things that you can do to help ensure a seamless transition to sibling-hood for your dog.
For example, teach her the difference between doggie toys and children’s toys. Hire a dog walker during the period immediately prior to and after birth to take over exercise responsibilities and teach solid obedience.
Practicing these and related exercises early and often is the most important thing you can do to develop a mutually rewarding relationship between your child and your dog.
Want to learn more about preparing your dog for the arrival of your baby? Check out my book: Good Dog, Happy Baby