Guest article from Jon of ilovelabradorretrievers.com.
For expectant parents who have a pet at home, one of the most common concerns they have is how will their pet cope with the new addition to the family? Babies are a heck of a lot of work and without a doubt require the majority of the attention from mom and dad, which leaves poor puppy in the position of being at the absolute bottom of the totem poll. Some pets, those who are less dependent on human interaction may not mind the new little attention sucking bundle of joy coming home but others, those who thrive on human interaction maybe thrown off their game which can result in unwanted changes in behavior.
For any puppy parents out there who are also soon to be actual parents, owning a dog, like the Labrador Retriever for example, and raising your child at the same time may take a little more work on your part, but millions of families do it, which means it is without a doubt, doable. The most important factor that will determine whether or not your pet can fit in with the new family dynamic is the amount of effort that parents are willing to put into helping the pet to adjust to change.
Think about it for a second. Your pet thrives on routine, which will be shattered when baby comes home. Your pet is used to being the center of attention but when baby comes home he can kiss that goodbye. How would you feel if your significant other suddenly started going out with the boys every night instead of coming home to spend quality time with you? I’m willing to bet the farm that you would be very unhappy and would not tolerate it for long. This, in a round about way is how your dog will be feeling when baby comes home, but there are many things you can do pre and post baby arrival to make the transition easier for Fido.
Three Ways to Prepare Your Dog for Baby
- Have a friend or family member, who has a baby bring him/her over for a visit. Pay close attention to your dog and see how he reacts in the presence of the infant. Most dogs will not have had a lot of interaction with babies, thus getting your pet used to them, and all of the cute, ear piercing noises they make can make it much easier for the pet when your own baby comes home.
- When your baby comes you will be giving less attention to your pet, so you might as well start weaning them down now, to prepare for baby arrival. If you walk your dog for a half hour twice a day, start walking him for 20mins twice a day instead. If you like to cuddle with your pooch on the couch while watching Young and the Restless, you might want to demote Fido to his doggie bed instead.
- Work on training your pet the command “go to bed” so that he is out of your hair when you need to give 100 percent of your attention to baby. When baby comes, you are going to need all of your attention when it comes to feeding, changing etc. and this is not the time you want your pet putting his head in your lap for an ear scratch.
Bringing Baby Home
- From your dog’s perspective, the baby is another member of the pack and if you do not devote considerable attention to Fido, then he will start to develop jealousy towards the new pack member who appears to have higher status than they do. As often as you can, include your pet in activities that you perform with your baby, always keeping a close eye on how your pet is behaving.
- Your dog may exhibit an array of different types of behavior around baby ranging from sheer curiosity, which would involve constant sniffing, following baby around and genuine interest in what baby is up too, to simply showing a peaked interest until the novelty wares off.
- When you let your pet interact with your baby, never, ever leave them unsupervised. Even if you have the sweetest dog in the world as a pet, you have no idea what they are thinking, and if by chance they decide to act inappropriately you need to be there to intervene.
- If ever you feel that your pet is a danger to your child, the baby has to come first! Although you may have put in a lot of work to prepare your puppy for baby, at the end of the day, there is nothing you can do to practice the “real thing.” If your dog is not adjusting to the new family dynamic, and you feel that you have exhausted all possible avenues of assistance, it is time to find a new home for Fido, one where he can be the center of attention.