Q&A on Preparing Dog for Baby

Have a dog? Having a baby?  Planning eventually for both?

Preparing Your Dog for Baby workshop at Nurtured addresses many parents’ questions and concerns for how to transition the family pet into baby’s best friend.  Tamara McFarland, busy mom and dog trainer leads this workshop and recently answered a few questions for us.  The next workshop will be held Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 6pm.


Q:  So much of what is commonly heard on preparing your dog for a baby suggests parents bring home an item from the hospital that would have the baby’s scent- how much of this is true and helpful?

T: There is a variation of this idea that can be more helpful but that involves a bit of advance preparation.

Before the baby is born I would help create a positive association with a scent such as a natural baby oil.  Pour a little oil on a tissue and place it on the floor.  When your dog investigates it praise them and immediately give them a treat.  Repeat this five times by taking your dog out of the room and letting them return to investigate.  At your next session, bring your dog into a room where you have set up your baby’s carseat and placed a tissue with the oil in it. When your dog investigates, praise them.  You don’t need to prompt your dog to investigate the car seat closely.  Forcing the issue may impact the positive association you have started to build.  Just leave the carseat in place for a few hours and then remove it and repeat again.  This same procedure would be best repeated with other main baby items as you receive them such as a sling, swing, etc. When your new bundle of joy does arrive, bring home a blanket or other item from the hospital that also has a tissue with the oil and then again when you first bring your baby home to start building a lasting friendship.


Q.  What do you recommend for a dog that is used to sleeping with you when you are also considering cosleeping with baby?

T: I recommend that you gradually get your dog used to sleeping in a dog bed on the floor in your room no matter where you plan on having your baby sleep. The majority of parents I have spoken to bring their baby or child into their bed at some point, even if it’s just to snuggle at the beginning of a day.  It’s just not worth the risk of having your dog be startled and reacting to a baby or young child.


Q.  Are there different stages of baby’s development to keep in mind for training the dog how to act around babies and kids?

T: In a perfect world from the moment your dog was born they were around gentle children, but in our less than perfect world start exposing your dog to calm children as soon as you can.  When planning for a baby it is always a good idea to be getting your dog used to what the baby will be like three months down the road so that they can more easily adjust to your rapidly changing baby.  An infant cooing during tummy time on the floor will be perceived very differently by your dog than your unstable walking baby or your babbling and screeching toddler.  These changes happen very quickly and anything you can do to help your dog adjust will make it easier on them and your family.


Q.  What do you recommend for keeping dog dishes on the floor and having a baby in crawling mode?

T: Dog dishes and children of any age are not a good mix.  A crawling baby will want to explore the water bowl as well as eat the dog food.  While your dog may never have shown any signs of aggression when you have been in the proximity of their dishes they could act aggressively with a baby.  That being said I believe the common suggestion of removing your dog’s food bowl while they are eating is counterproductive to getting your dog to relax when eating and could even lead to possessiveness.  Choose an out of the way area to feed your dog and start getting them used to this new location right away.  Instead of free feeding your dog by leaving a full food bowl down all the time, get your dog used to eating meals in a gradual manner.  Note the times that your dog eats most and feed their meals at these times even if they aren’t our conventional breakfast and suppertime.


Q.  What tips do you give to parents who have a dog that is overly protective of toys/territory or you?

T: A dog behaviourist or trainer should be consulted for one-on-one training ASAP. This type of behaviour [overly protective of toys/territory] is dangerous for a baby but thankfully there are gentle methods that can curb this behaviour.   Again, if the behaviour includes any aggression towards others This isn’t something to try and solve on your own.  Consulting with a dog behaviourist or trainer is recommended.

Thank you, Tamara!

For a great read at any stage of parenting, Tamara also suggests Living with Kids and Dogs without Losing Your Mind by Colleen Pelar.

There’s still space left for Preparing Dog for Baby!  Sign up today!

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