I’ve a brilliant guest post for you today from Laura at The Breastest News Laura is here to tell you about Dogs & Babies – The Best Introduction. Thank you so much Laura for taking the time to write this for us and for sharing your lovely photos too!
Please feel free to add any advice or experiences that you may have had with dogs and babies! Thank you xx
Dogs and Babies together can always be a touchy subject especially if you’re like me and have a Staffordshire Bull Terrier or a strong breed of dog as your family pet. People often recoil in horror when I tell them that I have a Staffordshire Bull Terrier around my son. Well to put things straight Staffordshire Bull Terriers are excellent family dogs and one of the most loyal dogs to have as mans best friend. They are brilliant with children and in the right environment they thrive to become excellent family pets. These dogs need a lot of leadership and someone to show them where they sit in a ‘pack’ and if you can get this right with any dog then you’re on to a winner. Remember not to judge the breed of dog just like you shouldn’t judge a person by the colour of their skin or origin.
So what are the best ways to introduce your dog to your baby, well it really all begins when you are pregnant before the baby has even arrived. The first thing you should do when you find out you are pregnant is to establish leadership within the household if you haven’t already done so. Dogs prefer to be led in a ‘pack’ rather than be leaders and they don’t mind where they sit in this structure as long as they get their walks, food and water they are quite happy and content. Too many people treat their dogs like children I’m afraid and this isn’t what you want when your new baby arrives as this can cause jealousy for the dog. It would be a good idea to take your dog to obedience classes if you feel they need some work and this one to one time is always good for your dog, it helps to establish you as a leader. If you feel your dog has quite a few problems I would suggest hiring a professional and working with them straight away. The sooner the better.
A few things myself and my other half did to establish leadership with our dog, long before I was pregnant was to prevent her from ever being allowed to sit on the sofa – this shows a higher ranking of yourself to the dog as you are sitting up higher than them when they are laying on the floor. She is also not allowed upstairs in our house, she does not get into our dining room as this is where people eat, she is only allowed into the kitchen when invited and when she is told to ‘go to bed’ she must obey. Another good tip in general is to never feed your dog food from your plate as this will encourage ‘begging’ which you do not want when your baby becomes a toddler and starts to finger feed in front of your dog. All of these things helped to establish boundaries for our dog and also show us as leaders which our dog is more than happy with and she’s a very happy dog – just ask the people at her obedience classes!
When your baby arrives it’s a good idea to get your other half to take home a piece of clothing that the baby was wearing for your dog to sniff and become familiar with their scent. Only let the dog sniff this clothing on your terms though, this way it shows you are in control and you are allowing the dog to sniff. This will allow the dog to knows its boundaries so when your baby comes home (obviously with the same scent as the clothing) your dog will know to keep a distance when you tell them too as it is the same scent. You could even hold the piece of clothing and get your dog to sit and wait for a period of time before allowing them to sniff it. Try and get them to sniff it from a distance, again setting a boundary for your dog. We did all of this with our dog and my mother-in-laws dog so that they could both get used to our sons scent before we introduced them. You can even do this exercise regularly throughout the days before your baby comes home from hospital so your dog get used to it.
So it’s time for your baby to come home, what to do now? Well it’s a good idea to make your dog tired before the baby comes home to help them keep calm and more relaxed. The easiest thing to do if you have the time is to take your dog out for a nice long walk. Once your dog has been walked and looks calm now is the best time to introduce them to your baby. Your dog will know straight away that there is a new smell in the house, our dog definitely did, so the best thing to do is for yourself or your other half to hold the baby while the other brings the dog close to have a sniff. Make sure the dog sniffs from a distance though, exactly the same as what you did with your babies clothing. Gradually you should let you dog sniff the baby closer and closer so that they become familiar with them but doing this gradually helps the dog to gain respect for the baby like they would for a leader (as a leader you should never allow your dog to jump all over you). You want the dog to recognise the baby as a leader like yourself and your other half and to respect the baby as much as they do around you.
One of the most important things to remember is never to leave your child alone with the dog and when your baby becomes mobile supervision is key incase your baby accidentally hurts the dog by pulling/ biting on its tail etc. If your child does begin to show an interest in your dog then it is time to teach your child how to act around your dog by showing it some respect like your dog gives to your child. Show your child that it is nice to stroke your dog as this is what they enjoy but quickly discourage any biting, tail pulling, feet poking etc as this sort of behaviour can provoke even the calmest dog.
At the end of the day if you have done all that is possible to keep your dog happy and be a leader (worked with professionals etc) and your dog still cannot settle within your family and you have concerns with the dog around your baby then it is time to find the dog another home as your child’s safety comes first and foremost. Please do everything you can possibly to first to keep your dog but if it just isn’t working then it’s time to call it a day unfortunately.
These are all the steps we took to get our dog used to having our son around her. Our dog is no angel when it comes to adults preferring to jump at them and lick them to death as she can get excited quickly but when it comes to children she tends to ignore then and give them space as that is what we have taught her to do. Keeping discipline and commands consistent throughout the arrival of our son really has helped our dog learn to respect him as much as she does with us. We started early which was key and this helped to settle our dog quickly when our son came along.