Your Dog and Your New Baby

The Big Arrival

You and your family are eagerly awaiting the arrival of your new baby! Well, all except your dog - he's still just an innocent, unsuspecting little guy. Although you can't sit down for a heart-to-heart to tell him that someday he'll be good friends with the baby, and you don't love the baby any more than you love him, and that scary wailing he hears is just a normal thing that babies do, you can help him prepare. The following steps will help the transition go much more smoothly for you and your four-legged children.

* Begin by purchasing a life-like baby doll to "practice" with. Spend time in the nursery attending to the doll (changing diapers, feeding, dressing, etc.) while rewarding your dog with treats and praise for waiting patiently outside the nursery (use a baby gate to keep him out so that you'll have one dog-free zone). Do not reward whimpering or barking - only quiet patience. This way, your dog will learn that he cannot always have your attention while you attend to the baby. You can also use the doll to safely teach Rover to gently sniff the baby and not paw at it.

* About two weeks before the baby arrives, sprinkle baby powder around the house or on the doll so that the smell becomes familiar to your dog. You can also teach the Leave-It command with baby blankets so that your dog learns that baby blankets are not toys. If you want to get really advanced, you can teach your dog to discriminate scents and reward him for playing with toys marked with one scent (vanilla extract works) for him and for obeying a Leave-It command for another scent (baby powder) for the baby's toys and blankets. This way, you can always tell your dog which toys are "legal" for him and which are "off limits."

* About three weeks before the baby arrives, purchase a recording of a baby crying and play it very quietly for a little while each day. Gradually turn the volume up as your dog becomes accustomed to the sound so that the noise will not be stressful or shocking to him when the baby arrives.

Lastly, don't forget your cats! Cats are sensitive to changes in smell and sounds too. Adding baby powder to your home and desensitizing your cat to the sound of the baby crying ahead of time are also great ways to help prepare your cat for the baby's arrival!


Written by Cara Shannon, who is the owner and one of the trainers at Buddy's Chance, LLC Austin Dog Training and Daycare. She teaches dog training classes for pet dog owners in Central Austin and consults on problem dog behaviors.