Baby and Dog in the house

BABY AND DOG IN THE HOUSE

For a family that has one-or more-dogs, the anticipation of the arrival of the first child exists as an ideal family picture, where the four-legged members look after and protect the new baby. And most of the time this is a reality so simple and so normal.

Whether there is one dog, two, or more, their relationship with the new member comes so easily, having been with the expectant mother through the whole process of pregnancy. They have “read” the change in the new mother from the beginning, they have felt the baby growing, having a heartbeat, making movements in the womb. This is certainly a preparation for the dog, to then welcome the new member.

The birth of the new member and its arrival at home, certainly has an effect on the dog. He is curious , to see, smell and touch the baby and it is so important for him to do so. The reaction of the parents is what defines this new relationship and the smooth running of the family. If we let the dog perform the ” ritual” of getting to know the baby, without adding stress to the process, and reward it for its good behavior….then we have made a very good start and our family will be on the best path to a happy future.

In some families, four-legged members are more than one. The procedure should be followed by everyone in the family…..and whatever species they belong to- dogs , cats, etc. We often find that each four-legged member adopts its own attitude towards the baby. Some may be more protective , some more cautious in their interactions with the baby, some more pushy and perhaps in some dogs we may notice a more neutral attitude, that is, showing less interest in the baby. Everything is legitimate in the context of achieving a balance within the family. In any case, we help our dog to always have positive impressions of every contact with the baby and we set the boundaries of this relationship – dog-baby- early on so that we do not go into the process of “admonishing” our dog for any undesirable behaviour towards it.

However, there are many instances where the dog owner is not sure what their dog’s reaction to the baby’s arrival will be. This is because he is experiencing various behavioral problems with his dog and has the belief , perhaps even confidence, that he will not deal with the event properly.

When a dog already has a bad image of children, it is doubtful that it will start well with the baby. This is because the dog has not been properly socialized with children , or has been abused by children in the past. Children cause him fear as they move very fast, make strange and loud noises and are at the same height as him – face to face – which he probably sees as a threat.

In some cases where the dog is doing advance guarding of his privileges, i.e. his food or toys, he may consider the child a threat to his privileges. If a dog is good with children but has this problem, he may still see his relationship with the child as a threat to his privileges.

Older or more excitable dogs may not tolerate the presence of a child. A dog that suffers from body pains, may react badly to the child’s potentially nasty and clumsy touching or grabbing .

Dogs that do not see or hear have great difficulty adjusting to the child. Children are unpredictable and cause chaos.

In all different cases, the new parent needs to be wise and take care of everything early on. If he will not allow the dog to sleep in the bedroom, or climb on the couch, or bark incessantly, etc. he should change them, as behaviors, long before the baby comes into the family. Maintain the routine in the dog’s life even after the baby arrives; always within reason.

With the guidance of a trainer he can solve such behavioral problems, change the routine early on and find ways to manage this new reality in the family.

Of course, things are not always that difficult. It does not always need such a special treatment. It all comes more smoothly and simply to some dogs. The relationship early on is a caring and loving relationship. However, and whatever the dog’s image of the baby, it should never be left alone with it without the full supervision of the parent.

Everything we teach our dog about our child , and everything we teach our child about our dog is what defines the relationship between them. Let’s help them have proper contact and communication!

Dimosthenis Moumiadis – Applied Animal Behaviourist (Kynagon Greece)

 

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