Welcome to the Good Dog Happy Baby Podcast, your source for all the information you need to get your dog ready to meet your baby.
In this episode, we create some context for the subsequent episodes by exploring the question of WHY it’s so important to prepare your dog for the arrival of your baby.
Why Is It Important To Prepare My Dog For My Baby?
Are you expecting? Or do you already have a toddler? How should you prepare your beloved dog for the arrival of your little one?
In this weekly podcast, you’ll get expert guidance from bestselling author and dog trainer Michael Wombacher.
In each episode of Good Dog Happy Baby, Mike answers key questions about how best to prepare your dog psychologically, emotionally, and physically for the big changes that come with having a baby.
As you may know, dog ownership has surged in the past 30 years. At the same time, more couples are delaying parenthood.
At the juncture of these trends, dogs have become surrogate children. Having showered love and affection on their pet(s), too few parents consider the impact of a new baby human on their “fur baby”. Nor do they think about how to prepare their “first baby” for this sudden change.
To the extent they consider the situation at all, they mostly assume all will be well.
This assumption is often a big mistake. Over the years I’ve had numerous clients who dismissed my warnings about potential dog-baby problems, only to deeply regret it later. That’s why I created the Good Dog Happy Baby book, e-course, and podcast.
Episode Blog Post
I’ve been training dogs here professionally for the last 22 years. I’m also the author of the best-selling book Good Dog, Happy Baby, an in-depth manual on how to prepare your dog for the arrival of your child.
I’m joined by my friend Morgan Dix, who’s going to help me sort through a lot of the issues you’ll be facing in this exciting phase of your life. He’s going to interview me, and we’re going to lay out a lot of information for you, to help you enable your dog to make this transition into siblinghood smooth, and easy, and free of hiccups.
I’ve been training dogs for 22 years professionally, and about 2 years in, I started to notice the issue of preparing dogs for the arrival of babies, and saw the lack of resources.
So, I’ve been advocating for more attention in this area for a very long time.
Morgan: When we started working together, you had already published your best-selling book, Good Dog, Happy Baby, and we worked together on creating your first course, also of the same name – Good Dog, Happy Baby. And that’s something people can check out – and I recommend they do – because it’s a great course.
So, you’ve written a book on the topic, you’ve developed a course – so before we jump into specific questions about how to actually prepare your dog for a baby, can you just give everyone some high-level context on why it’s so important to prepare your dog for your baby?
I’m sure a lot of people initially – like me – were like: “What’s the big deal?”
Preparing Your Dog For The Arrival Of Your Baby
Mike: Well: the big deal, to put it really simply, is that the dog will often feel jealous, displaced, or just unable to understand how to relate to this little one, who they definitely do not see as an adult human, or even as a younger human. They don’t even see them as human, necessarily.
They don’t know what little babies are.
And they’re having their household intruded upon – and obviously, the number one issue is: “Is my dog going to bite my kid, at some point?” And a lot of people make the mistake of just assuming: “Well, no, he’s a secure golden retriever – he’s as sweet as could be, he loves everybody, and he would never.”
This is the number one mistake people make – to presume that the dog never would.
Since you asked for high-level context: I usually like to rattle off some statistics, which you’ve heard me mention many times. But they’re important. And I’m not making these up to sell books – anybody can find this information online. A lot of it comes from the Center for Disease Control, over in Atlanta.
The Shocking Data On Dog Bites
But I’ll just rattle them off (and this is for anybody, but especially for people who think: “My dog would never”): there’s something like 4.5 million reported dog bites in the United States every year – the actual number is a lot higher, but those are the ones that get reported. Those are bad enough to get reported.
About 800,000 of those require hospitalization, 30,000 require reconstructive surgery, and 80% are on children under 5. 80% of those are on the face and neck – and 90% come from the family dog, or from a dog that the child is very familiar with.
Morgan: One second, Mike. Those are big statistics to take in. What’s the statistic around the family dog?
Mike: Something like 80% of dog bites happen to children under 5. 80% of those are on the face and neck. 90% come from the family dog, or from a dog with whom the child was familiar.
So, this isn’t random dogs running down the street, attacking children. No, almost never. It’s family dogs – and the people didn’t see it coming.
And then the statistics go on – by the age of 12, 50% of American children have been bitten by a dog, and a significant number suffer from symptoms of PTSD. Now, the situation is so severe that the Center for Disease Control has labeled dog bites on children a national epidemic, second in its threat to child welfare only to teen substance abuse.
So, think about that for a minute. Those are very sobering statistics – and I’m sure that of people reading this, a number are going to say: “Yes, that happened to me, when I was a kid.” Or: “That happened to my sister, or somebody I know.”
“I Never Thought It Could Happen To Us”
It’s a big deal – and, almost always, it’s from people who thought: “Oh, I thought he’d be fine.” And I know that, because that’s what I see, when people call me.
The frustrating thing is when people call me when the baby is three or four months old, and the dog is causing all kinds of problems – and now, they want to fix it. And it’s often too late at that point.
Last year, I had to tell six people to rehome their dog. Because, once the baby crosses the eight-month threshold and starts crawling, that’s when all the trouble starts.
That’s why I created the video course specifically addressing that threshold: because the number one reason that people end up rehoming their dogs is that, at the eight-month threshold – when the baby becomes more unpredictable and mobile – they encroach on the dog. And then bad things happen.
A Tragedy Waiting to Happen
Morgan: You’ve been dog training for over 20 years – was this apparent to you early on? Is this something you’ve only understood in the later stages or your professional arc? Or has this been an issue for a while?
Mike: It’s been an issue for a while. I’ve been training for about 22 years. And about 2 years in, I had a very dramatic client episode, where these things really came to the forefront.
They were young – early twenties – pregnant, and had this crazy little Jack Russell terrier. And he was really quite out of control, and I could see right away: “Oh my God, this is a collision course waiting to happen.”
So I warned them – I said: “Do not indulge your dog in a last hurrah. Get some obedience training, and lay down some structure and rules around the house.”
And they were like: “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” They didn’t do any of it, because they thought: “Oh, he’s a cute little dog.” The mom had all these maternal impulses developing so strongly in her, because she was pregnant, but she hadn’t yet had her baby. So she transferred them all onto the dog.
So, the dog was sleeping in the bed every night – and the last three or four weeks, when she was on maternity leave, she had lots of extra time to take him to the park, and do this and do that.
And then, literally, the day the baby came, that all changed. The dog was in the crate. He was basically shunted off to the side, and completely flipped out.
Now, he never bit the kid – but by three months, the mom couldn’t handle his antics any more. Because, literally every time she would turn to the baby if it was crying, he would pee on something.
It was just a jealous move. He would grab something or do something, just like a child would, to get mom’s attention.
And you know how it is to be a new parent – you’re sleep deprived, you’re overwhelmed by all your new responsibilities. And after three months, she couldn’t handle it anymore, and they just got rid of the dog.
And that’s when I realized: “OK, wow – this is a big deal.”
So I started to look online to see what resources were available. And, other than one little pamphlet that I found on Amazon, there was nothing. So, that’s when I decided to start to try to fill that niche – and that’s what I’ve done.
Morgan: And it’s obviously an issue because, as I said, your book has been a bestseller, and has been selling at a high rate on Amazon for a very long time. So, there’s obviously a big need, and it’s a big issue.
Mike: Yes – I’ve known that for a long time. I’ve always wondered why there isn’t more in that little niche.
Now, you can go online, and you’ll find a lot of articles by other places, little blogs. But they’re little articles – one or two-page articles. There’s nothing really comprehensive and step-by-step that gives you a meaningful program.
My book is small; it’s just 130 pages or something similar. But I made it that way on purpose, so it would be user-friendly and bullet-point oriented.
Morgan: That’s great; I think you’ve laid out some really nice context for the issue. So, instead of going into another question, can you just tell everyone: what is going to be the arc of this series? How do you envision this going?
What’s the long game, and what’s the how-to – and the step by step – that we’re going to share in this series? What are people going to get out of it?
Mike: Well, hopefully a lot of things. As you know, I wrote a little paper – it’s got 22 questions people should ask themselves in relation to their dog, just to kind of get a sense of where they’re at.
So, I think it would be great to run through that, just to help people with how to think about these things, and the questions to ask themselves. Look at your dog, and ask yourself this.
So they can at least orient to the situation, and at least put it on the table of things to think about.
You know, when you’re pregnant, there are so many things to think about: the nursery, fixing up the baby’s room, all the stuff to buy, baby-proofing the house. A million things!
I want to put the dog in the middle of all those considerations. So those 22 questions are really helpful.
Then I’d like to work my way through the various pieces of content from the book in bite-size chunks – so people can drop in here and cross-reference, or use it however they want to.
I just want to put all this information out there, in as many ways as possible, so more people end up keeping their dogs.
Morgan: That’s great. So, the basic gist is that, in this series, which we’ll be publishing weekly, you’re getting a lot of the information that’s in Mike’s book and in the course.
The difference is that if you really want to get the concentrated, step-by-step, consolidated version of this, you should definitely take the course. If you like what we’re talking about, and if you are resonating with Mike’s expertise, get the course – because it’s naturally going to go deeper.
It’s a video format: Mike’s talking to you directly, in a very structured way, about all the how-to and the step-by-step for preparing your dog. And ideally before your baby arrives.
So, think about that. But we’re going to be delivering as much value as we can to you in this series. Basically, I’m going to milk Mike for all his authority and information, so you guys get the most out of it. Mike, any parting thoughts?
Mike: Well, whenever this subject comes up, I have a million things I want to say. But I’m aware that we should probably save it for the next installment.
But I just would say that the video course, in particular, really helps directly prepare for that eight-month transition, when the baby starts to crawl.
It’s kind of shot in the style of a Dog Whisperer episode – so it’s not me standing up there lecturing. You’ll go with me to appointments with people facing these issues, in actual people’s homes, with real babies, and real dogs, and real parents facing some challenging issues.
And one of the two modules on there is about preparing a dog for child-like handling, which is one of the biggest things. The reason I decided to shoot that one first is that it’s the number one flashpoint that creates tragedies, basically.
So I put a lot of work into it – it took me a year and a half to shoot. And I hope people that take advantage of it, and don’t end up like those six people last year who I had to tell to rehome their dogs.
Morgan: Fantastic. We’ll be back next week with another installment. Get ready – and you can obviously get this podcast on iTunes as well.
And we will be dropping this content once a week on this website. You can also sign up on the email list, and get it delivered to you every other week – two episodes. And, if you really like the show, please leave us a rating and a review on iTunes – that will really help other parents discover the show; it’s the best way to help other parents discover the show.
And if you sign up for Mike’s email list, you get a sweet deal on the course. It lasts only a week, so pick it up while you can. And you can do that here, by signing up for Mike’s email list.