New baby! Helping create a smooth transition with our pups
What a joy to bring home a new baby!
The last thing we want is one more thing to worry about. Getting prepared and starting this introduction process a few weeks before baby arrives is best to help our furry friends feel more at ease and accepting of the new normal.
Setting some new rules and learning some new skills will be the best thing you can do to invest in a more peaceful transition for your pup and your family. Boundaries, play and exercise routines, sleeping and eating location, and even cuddle time all will need to be adjusted a bit.
1) Personal Space: Some dogs don't know how to give people personal space, and maybe that's never really caused enough of an issue to warrant really working on those skills. On the surface, these behaviors can appear as just "bad manners"- but under the surface of those bad manners is a lack of impulse control and self-awareness. THAT is where the danger lies.
There is often a general lack of understanding of how dogs minds work, their true needs, body language and how to communicate with them. This can lead to very scary and even fatal accidents. Yes, even with the sweetest dog in the world, it's a sad reality.
Behaviors that indicate our pup has very little respect for others personal space: Jumping up on people, onto the furniture without invitation, nudging your hand, walking in front of you, rushing past you through door ways to name a few.
2) Clingy behaviors, dogs lacking confident independence: Another misconstrued behavior problem area that gets mistaken for "cute" or that elicits human "sympathy". Again, I refer to the earlier statement that we need to think like a dog, not a human. Providing dogs with dog-specific guidance is key. These types of behavior lead to anxiety that worsens each time we feed into it, but can lead to neurotic behaviors and also jealousy, which can quickly escalate into injury.
3) "Jealousy". The infamous term that means our dog wants what someone else has. When there is no competition for resources, most dogs will never display any type of resource guarding or protective aggression. So it may come as a shock to some dog owners when their beloved pup suddenly develops these behaviors. This is why preparation is worth every minute spent investing in it. This frustration dogs feel regarding resources can turn ugly faster than you might think. This is a very helpful Blog to read: Resource Guarding: Helping them let their guard down
Great physical boundaries:
- Baby gates are great for this. Set some up in the door way of the rooms you'll need to access frequently for baby care, feeding, changing and rocking. Nursery, our bedroom, livingroom etc.
- Play pen, laundry room, big kennel for pup is great too!
- Start to expect our pups stay back away from the dining room table 5 feet or more, out of the nursery or kitchen or a few feet away from all baby items. At least at first. It's always best to set the expectation that they need permission.
- Blue painters tape on the floor can help, as a visual indicator for boundary lines
- Having a dog bed in every area can help also, we have a place to ask them to go hang out where they're still able to be involved, but at a safe and convenient distance.
- This helps with the "bubble" idea also, that they need to be careful when approaching us, and therefore the baby
Helpful Obedience Cues that ALL dogs should know and practice often:
To help our dog once baby is coming home, here are some steps to follow:
Prepare ahead of time:
1) Have someone bring an item of moms and the baby's home to the pup as soon as possible so they can smell and become familiar with the scent of the new baby.
2) Get Adaptil and spray it on your dogs bedding, or get the plug-in diffuser. These are synthetic calming pheromones that can help digs feel at ease.
3) Pup will be excited and confused, as their routine has likely been thrown off for at least 1 day or 2. So, have someone go check on your pup twice a day for play and exercise. I am sure you'll have someone, or dad, coming home to feed pup anyway. A bit of extra exercise shortly before mom and baby come home is helpful!
Follow these steps when mom and baby finally get home
4) Try to allow mom to come in and greet pup, without baby for a minute or 2. They will have missed mom and want to greet her excitedly. Let mom go in and say hi and allow pup to calm down a bit. Mom can ask them to go to place, kennel or down/stay if it's a reliable cue. Give a high value treat and then go out and bring baby inside.
5) When baby comes inside, we need to be sure to correct and not allow any jumping, barking, scratching, nipping or other excessive behavior. So, if pup is too excited to be redirected and is not able to focus on cues, it's best to have them go in their kennel, pen or outside for a few minutes until calmer and able to take our direction, this is a safety measure.
6) When the time is right and pup is calm and controllable, let's have pup on leash. Mom or dad can hold baby and the other holds the leash and has treats ready to redirect and reward for good manners like sitting and not jumping for example.
7) When we introduce baby, we want to be holding baby in our arms and bend down to a level we're sure pup won't jump or, not at floor level and not in the baby carrier. We want to present the baby as one of our family members, not as a toy or puppy.
8) Allow pup to smell for 3 seconds, then redirect back away form baby toward the handler and get a treat for turning away from the baby. Repeat this 3 times.
9) Then, give pup a break in the kennel with a baby-smelling item and a favorite chew toy or stick. Do not allow pup to lick. Not only do dogs carry asymptomatic zoonotic parasite and bacteria in their mouths, but another big reason is we want to set a VERY clear precedent that pups do NOT put their mouths on the baby, even a lick. A lick can easily turn into a bite, accidental or not, and can still cause a lot of damage to tiny thin baby skin.
10) Each subsequent greeting should be like this, until pup is less excited and more simply curious. Then, you can allow 5 second sniffs while pup is still following your sit, down, focus cues.
Most dogs do well with the greeting process and end up being gentle, loving and caring companions to our kids. But, some do struggle, and sometimes that struggle can be harmful. Since we won't know, it's best to take the safest route when introducing. And just because a dog loves some children or pets, doesn't mean they'll be as fond of another new child, baby or pet!
This structured greeting technique can be used when introducing our pup to anything or anyone!