N.H. Sunday News - Dog Tracks Column - 4/10/11
By: Gail T. Fisher
A reader writes: “We’re adopting a baby within the next few months. Our dog Max has been our baby for five years and is extremely jealous of babies or children if I am holding them—barks and demands attention. Could you address the training issues of bringing a second “baby” into the household? I’ve thought about carrying a baby doll and giving Max treats when he behaved properly. I'm hoping that he might become desensitized enough to ignore the doll after a while and could generalize this to a real baby. Thanks!”
This subject really struck home. We’ve recently learned that two of our All Dogs Gym trainers are expecting—one adding a second human child, and the other expecting their first. Much like this reader, they are all in the fortunate position of having time to prepare their dogs for the new addition to the household. We have occasionally had new parents call us from the hospital for advice on how to introduce the baby to the dog the next day! Prior planning is definitely helpful.
There are several issues to consider: the home environment, the dog’s routine, his training, and the interaction between the dog and the humans in the family, including the new baby. First the home environment and the dog’s normal routines.
Consider everything you can think of that will change once the baby arrives, being specific about both your home and daily routines. Think about how the baby’s arrival will affect the dog. Think about modifications, and introduce them well in advance of the happy day, your dog time to adjust and thereby avoid associating the upheaval with the baby.
For example, if your dog normally sleeps on your bed, but once the baby comes you won’t want him there, get him used to sleeping in his crate . . . now. Put his food dishes in a safe place for feeding, and make any other environmental adjustments or changes in your dog’s schedule or routine well before the baby comes.
It’s probably been a while since five-year-old Max was in a dog crate or travel kennel, so now is a good time to re-acclimate him to it in a positive way. Treat his going into the crate as an outstanding accomplishment, loaded with praise and treats. Give him a good toy to enjoy such as a stuffed Kong or hollowed out sterile bone with yummies such as peanut butter mixed with Chex, Cheerios, or even dog kibble. There are a variety of toys on the market that will keep a dog busy and happy in a crate, and getting him used to it now will enable you to crate him if you need to without his perceiving it as punishment.
Look around the room where you spend most of your time, and picture the baby as he or she becomes mobile, crawling around that room. Is your dog’s bed there? Max is not good with babies, but even a tolerant dog may not put up with a toddler encroaching on their territory. A dog may become protective if the baby approaches his or her bed, so create a safe place for Max to avoid putting him in that position.
One possible solution is to change the location of the bed, putting it in another room. As the baby gets older and better able to understand permissible and impermissible behavior, it’s important to supervise and teach him or her that the crate is absolutely, 100% off-limits. This is the dog’s territory. It is inviolate. Don’t allow a child to bother a dog in a crate, or worse still to try to get into the crate with him. Dog rules give the dog the right and responsibility to protect his territory from invasion. This means he’ll warn the intruder with a growl, or even a snap. This could have disastrous consequences to a child who sticks his head into a crate, and can spell the end of your relationship with your much-loved “first” child.
Next week, preparing and training for dogs in advance of the baby’s arrival
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