Some dogs are raised as the “baby” in a couple’s life, so it can be unnerving to pups when their owners bring home a real baby. After all of the changes around the home leading up to the birth, suddenly the little bundle of joy has arrived, and some dogs don’t know how to handle their new sibling. Pet owners may feel concerned about how to help their dogs and babies live harmoniously together, but it will all come together if they are patient in teaching the two how to treat one another.
San Francisco “Pooch Coach” Beverly Ulbrich reminds new parents that many of the cliches surrounding new babies and dogs are true. Dogs most likely will feel uncertain around a newborn baby when there are new smells, sounds and disruptions in the house. As the baby grows older, he or she will most likely want to grab at this furry thing, which can irritate a dog used to its own space. Ulbrich warns that parents should never leave a baby and a dog alone unsupervised. Instead, take this opportunity to teach a dog how to behave around a baby.
In “The Whole Dog Journal,” Denise Flaim suggests that owners try an approach she used with her dog, Blitz. When Blitz was around any of her triplets and reacted without fear or concern, he’d get a treat. She knew she could even trust him to get closer to the children, and would balance a piece of string cheese on the baby’s blanket-swaddled feet, encouraging him to make contact with them. It’s best to reward good behavior, Flaim warned, because trying to correct a dog’s behavior when they have fear or anxiety will only make the problem worse.
Just like dogs need to be trained, children will need to be as well. Pet owners should create expectations for the way their children need to be behave toward the dog. This includes teaching toddlers how to gently pet dogs and hammering home the message “tails are not for pulling,” Flaim said. Pet owners should let their older children know that a dog’s crate – his sanctuary – is off limits as a playpen and cannot be opened without permission. The crate can also be a way to let your dog get away from all of the commotion that will undoubtedly come with a new baby and raising children, Beverly suggested. Dogs and human children may need time apart now and then, but with the proper instruction, discipline and pet care, they can learn to coexist as siblings.