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Introducing Dogs to a New Baby

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Q: How should I introduce my two dogs to our new baby?

A: Congratulations! It's all good fun. (I say this after about three hours sleep the other night...)

dog and baby

There is a lot written about introducing dogs to a new baby—most of it is fanciful, superfluous, and a waste of time. Dogs don't struggle with new smells, they don't need to go through complicated rituals to accept a new member into the family, and the worry people have about the transition can create anxiety for the dog!

So the first thing to do is relax.

The next thing to do is look at actual behaviors (what a dog does, not what we like to think dogs do "in the wild" that might suddenly appear out of nowhere).

Which behaviors are going to be a pain in the bum when you've got a baby to care for and you're running on empty? Which behaviors would you like to see instead of those unwanted behaviors? Are there any management strategies you can use to make your life easier, without sacrificing too much of your dog's lifestyle? (There will always be some compromises.)

The worry people have about the transition can create anxiety for the dog!

We taught our dogs not to jump a baby gate into the main living area. And that was about all we needed to train. They already knew how to drop things, to "leave it," and to wait quietly on mats or in crates.

When baby comes home, the boredom should begin. What I mean is that, to your dogs, the baby should be absolutely the most boring thing on the planet. But most people introduce the baby to the dog and expect some sort of...

  1. trouble
  2. excitement
  3. magical wolf-child bond to form, possibly aided by spirit guides
  4. jealousy
  5. over-protectiveness, due to the magical wolf-child bond

... all of which will happen, if that's what you are looking for, but that's probably not what you really want.

You really just want your dog to chill out if your baby cries, tro leave your baby and baby's toys alone, and to stay out from under your feet when you're carrying baby. Apart from that, it's life as normal as far as your dog is concerned.

If you know for a fact that your dog gets horribly agitated when he hears a baby cry, then consider using a recording of a baby crying to teach an alternative behavior ahead of time.

Reinforce the behavior you want, ignore or prevent behavior you don't want.

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