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Bringing Your New Baby Home

A baby coming home will be a huge disruption to the social structure of your home, not handled correctly, the dog/s can protest and make it impossible to coexist, meaning they get re homed or euthanized.

Bringing a baby home to your household when you have a dog or dogs needs to start a number of months before the baby is due to be born if you want to have a smooth transition, well as smooth as a new baby in the house can be!

Many parents to be, ask one another at some stage “how do you think Spot will be with the baby?”, the other parent responds “yeah he will be fine”, and the conversation doesn’t come up again in many homes.

In a percentage of those homes things go horribly wrong, I won’t go into details here but the outcomes can be horrific.

Any behaviour problem that your dog has before the baby comes home will be amplified when the pack structure is upset, so they must be solved now. This means if your dog has a barking problem, leash pulling problem, is aggressive or disobedient; don’t think for a moment that these problems will not escalate when some of your time that used to go into the dog no longer goes into the dog.

The main difference you will notice is that the problem/s get worse and you find yourselves with less time and patience to deal with them. Assuming your dog will be sympathetic as you have a new baby is a bad assumption.

Your dog will need to be trained to be accustomed to less walks, less interaction with you and perhaps less access to the house, depending on your stance on dogs in the home. He will also need to walk perfectly on the leash without pulling, as when a new mum finds that small amount of free time she has and decides to take the dog for a walk, she won’t be able to manage a pram and a dog that pulls like a steam train. This means the dog needs to walk without any leash tension at all whilst walking next to the pram.

Dogs can unbalance a pram easily, babies have been tossed out of the pram when a dog has lunged.

We also provide training that sets rules and boundaries for the dog and teaches the dog how to behave when approaching anyone who has the baby in their arms and not to approach the baby when it is on its own. It is also important that the dog becomes accustomed to the smells that the baby will bring and the noises too.

You can also just keep the dog outside and the baby inside right? Well that would be classed as “management”.

Management is temporary.

Some dogs are a little nervy and needy, and when you start spending less time with them, are stressed and there is more noise in the house at odd hours and a new pack member, it can tip these dogs over the edge and problems arise when you need them the least.

My program is designed around natural behaviour flow in a pack environment and places the ultimate safety on the baby that lives in a home with dog/s.

I have read many a program that advise to set aside time for the dog in your schedule when baby is first born, special time for the dog. I guess these people have never had a child because I can tell you that, when my son and daughter were born, there was little free time for the dogs, or us. The time we spent with the dogs in the first few precious weeks was to feed, basic exercise etc, and this was done when we were walking the baby in the pram, not time we set aside for the dogs alone. That time just wasn’t there.

Making a baby is a miracle on its own, don’t try for two out of two and expect your dog to just do what you need without some help.

We provide a course that parents to be can complete with their dog/s in which we will address any behaviour problems, design a program to shape the dogs routine into one that will accept the baby coming home without problems and also to make sure the baby doesn’t end up a target for the dogs ill feelings toward routine changes or dominance.

How much work will depend on what your dogs behaviour is like now, if your dog is well behaved, obedient and problem free, the course will be easy, if your dog has some behaviour problems, it might be more in depth, either way this course is a must.

I believe this course is a must for new parents; many people seem to assume that things will be fine; they are often the ones that ring begging for an emergency consult as their dog is turning their life upside down.

Ideally you should begin training as soon as you either plan to have a baby or as soon as you find out that you’re expecting, so plan ahead and shoot us an email if you are interested in our courses, you won’t regret it!

Some common things people say…

Our dog is great with kids, he will be fine…

S: Your baby isn’t a kid, it will be a baby, a small, disruptive noise maker that draws more attention than you could possibly imagine. How will your dog feel about that when he is getting less attention, walks and if he barks at the wrong time, you will be angry.

I want the baby and dog to be close, like brother and sister…

S: Wow…

The dog will just have to cope…

S: no he won’t, he will likely protest like all hell and in the state of mind you will be in, he might see the door.


Misconceptions

There are photos that float around the internet from time to time, showing how a dog is nurturing a baby. Many people comment how lovely that is, those of us who can read canine body language and understand the species cringe at these photos.

As parents we love it when others pay our children attention and show them care, you are making a mistake when you think the dog is on the same wave length as you.

baby5

This is an extremely disturbing picture, there are pictures that precede this one showing the dog moving the child around with it’s head. This could turn into a dead baby in 2 seconds if the dog got a reaction from the baby that it wasn’t expecting and doesn’t know how to deal with.

Cute? yes, risky? extremely.

I am sure the owner of this dog would argue with my views, and that is fine. One thought though, human adults for many years have shaken their babies and caused severe damage including death. This may have happened in a moment of frustration that the person lost control because they did not know how to deal with this child.

That is a human with their own baby, what makes people think a dog is better prepared to deal with that baby when the baby acts in a manner the dog doesn’t understand, or perceives as a threat or even the child climbing on the dogs back?


I have worked with a number of parents whose dog has bitten or attacked their child and with many more people who have been referred to me for Cynophobia (fear of dogs). I can tell you the visible scars sometimes fade, but the psychological ones don’t fade as easy.

The benefits of having a child grow up with a dog are huge, learning to care for an animal, understanding a different species, a confidant, immune system booster etc are all just a few of the benefits.

A short story I want to share with you, a friend of a friend came to our place for a BBQ, we were all sitting around and the story turned to dogs as it always seems to around me. This person told me that they didn’t like a certain breed, because they had a child and got the child a dog, after a few months the dog bit the child. So they euthanised the dog at once.

I asked, how did you train the dog to interact with the child? The answer was, “We didn’t, good dogs don’t need training“.

I asked “how did you train the child to interact with the dog? The answer was, “What do you mean?“.

  • Parents have thought they would like to have a dog for their child.
  • Buy dog, probably with no temperament test, no concerns at all.
  • Put dog and child together and hope for magic.
  • Child and dog interact, something happens, dog nips child.
  • Dog killed.

The final straw, “we had to put it down, it was better off…”

MY GOD!


I was raised with dogs, this picture is of me when I was about 2.

My First German Shepherd
My First German Shepherd

I raise my children with dogs, here is a photo of my son Tyler in the bath with my German Shepherd Kayne supervising

Tyler and Kayne-1

My daughter with Diesel

Biscuit and Diesel
Biscuit and Diesel

My Children are taught how to interact with dogs and how to feed them treats when they are calm.

Hold food with open hand
Hold food with open hand

My dogs are selected for their temperament, (strong nerves), my children are taught how to interact and dogs taught how to interact as well.

Children are always supervised with dogs.


I have been running the Introducing your Baby course for many years, but after I became a father I was able to understand the parents’ level of fatigue when baby comes home, with that experience, I think it makes me a batter trainer, and a better father.

Steve

About steve-world

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9 comments

  1. Great article Steve, should be compulsive reading for all parents to be. Another thing I have found personally is how disturbed a dog can be by the sound of a newborn crying when the same dog is totally unpeturbed by an older baby and children in general. It must touch some particular “chord” with the dog. Makes you understand those terrible cases where newborns have been fatally harmed by dogs.

  2. Thanks Jess, we get more and more pro active people who are having a baby or even getting a puppy coming these days way ahead of time, prevention is loads easier than cure.

  3. Words of wisdom to live by. I hear all the time I want them to grow up together. Not going to happen unless its a fluke. They don’t like it when I say kids and dogs don’t get on, unless taught how to respond to one another. Cheers

  4. Great article Steve and I agree – should be compulsory reading for all parents. I have a Rottweiler x Dobermann, Rosie (a rescue and I believe a wonderful dog). I regularly walk around Narrabeen Lakes and on the weekends it is full of families, kids on scooters, bikes, joggers etc etc. One day I was doing my usual power walk with Rosie and as we went past a young mum with a toddler, the mum said to her toddler “chase the puppy”. Luckily I was in earshot and heard her. I politely but very strongly told her what I thought of that idea, and the reasons why – I truly believe she had no idea. I don’t believe Rosie would react (she is very well socialised with kids and adults alike), but I could not guarantee that she wouldn’t react. I hope the mum learnt a valuable lesson that day.

    • Thanks Linda, and that is another whole article isn’t it? Kids need to be taught how to interact with dogs, the current school programs still advise exposing the back of your hand to a dog to see if it will bite.

      We all need to move forward don’t we.

  5. Great Article, I agree with all above comments, all new parents, indeed all new dog owners should have to read this. I do demos and static displays (sledding) with one of my dogs, and the number of times people just shove their children at the dogs can be frightening

  6. Each situation is going to be so different. In our case, we had three dogs when we discovered we were expecting our first child (this was 21 years ago!). The dogs were all cross breeds and all were desexed. Their ages ranged between 2 and 5yrs. There was one ridgeback cross, one heeler x GSD and one true Heinz 57 that I had obtained while working o/s and had brought to Oz at great expense “Because Bravonell was my best buddy in the world”. Bravonell would be best described as a corgi cross elkhound. We determined that life for our dogs would not change just because we were having a baby. They remained a very integral part of our lives and routine. Part of their established routine inside the home was to got to their their “blanket” – the place that they could lay on next to the heater when they were inside and when we didn’t want them following us into ever room! After the birth, but before I came home with baby, my husband took one of the baby’s used pajamas home and let the dogs sniff and sniff and sniff. The next day when I was discharged, we had a friend meet us a block away when we returned with bub – she took baby, and we went home to greet the dogs. They were overjoyed to see me (of course) and I was able to interact with them as I always had. Of course they knew something had changed – they sniffed and sniffed and sniffed so much I began to feel like a carpet being steam cleaned. Next, we took our pack for a long walk – our usual routine when arriving home from work before baby came along, so the dogs were happy and settled as usual when we got home. I then told them to get on their blanket (again, standard practice in our routine). I sat on the floor with them and patted them and talked about what would happen next – I remember all three looking at me like “Wow – what a great bedtime story!”. after a few minutes, my husband carried our infant daughter in and placed her in my arms. The dogs were intrigued but minded their manners very well. I passed the baby around for them all to sniff and look at, while saying”Stay”, “Gentle” and “Good dogs”. It took about 10 minutes for them to satisfy themselves, and I soon found I had a sleeping baby and three sleeping dogs snoring all around me! From then on if we moved baby, and if any or all of the dogs showed any interest, we would invite them to come and watch – reinforcing “Gentle”. I reckon if they had thumbs I would never had needed to change a nappy! By the time our daughter was crawling, her favourite place was sleeping in the middle of the dogs on their blanket, using the two larger ones as walking aides and enjoying their kibble as well. For us, it was a matter of constant supervision, maintaining our pre-baby routines as much as possible and teaching the dogs how to safely interact with baby. We knew they “got it” on the first night when I used the coffee table to change her nappy. As the crown of her head sat just over the edge of the table, Lucky (the ridgeback) literally crawled off her blanket, over to sniff this little head. Ever so gently she gave the baby a little lick – and instantly ducked away from my husband (who was sitting at my 9 0’clock in another chair); Lucky had expected – for no reason that we gave her – to be reprimanded for licking the baby…..We just said “That’s OK – Good girl. Thank you for being gentle”. My husband gave her a good pat, where upon she visibly relaxed, got up and returned to sleep on her part of the blanket.

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