Safely Introduce Your Dog to Your New Baby

Many couples put off having that first child for a number of reasons:  To establish their career, to be more financially stable, some want to buy the house first…… But in their desire to nurture ‘something’, many (myself included) choose to get a dog – and the dog invariably takes on the role of substitute child. In my household, we refer to our dog as our ‘son’, and when we talk to him, we refer to each other as ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy.’

But as a professional dog trainer, one call I get quite often is, “We have had our dog for years, and he has always been so good…. Until we brought home the new baby a few months ago. Then his behavior totally changed! I think he is jealous of the baby, and I am afraid for the baby’s safety, I think we are going to have to get rid of the dog.”

How many of us remember the classic Disney movie “Lady and the Tramp”?  The scene that always comes to mind for me regarding this subject is when Lady sings, “What Is a Baby?” It actually gives amazing insight into what I, as a trainer, see as the problem.

All rights reserved by Disney – Lady and the tramp (1955)

Prior to the baby coming home, all of the attention and nurturing has been on the dog. If you play the video clip, pay attention to the small things, like how Lady starts off alone downstairs, the lights are off, and none of her people are around. As she climbs the stairs she sings, “They haven’t even noticed that I’m around today”. Then she sees Jim, and gets into a happy begging position… which always got her plenty of attention before, but distracted, he ignores her as he goes down the stairs with the baby bottles. When she arrives at the top of the stairs, she knows her “Mom” is behind the door, but the door is almost closed, and it is the only light on. As she approaches the almost closed door, she sings the last line, “I must find out today, what makes Jim Dear and Darling, act this way.”

So first off, I want to dispel a myth…. Regardless of how it may seem, dogs do not get jealous. This is a human emotion we put on them to explain their behavior. In order to be jealous, there has to be a cognitive thought process…. “They are getting something, I’m not, and it’s not fair!” Sorry folks…. Dogs are just not that complex. For them, it is mostly curiosity…and a somewhat child-like instinct. Like a two-year old they want to be included (“me too, me too”). There are also a ton of new smells, the sound of crying that they are not accustomed to, and let’s not leave out the fact that quite often, as new parents, there is usually a bit of tension when the new baby first comes home. Your dog picks up on this tension, one that was not previously there. Let’s face it….you’ve had 9 months to prepare for this. Isn’t it only fair that you prepare them for this big event as well?

Here are some of the typical ‘bad behaviors’ my customers report to me that their dog is doing…

  • Dog pulls at baby toyJumping up on them when they are holding the baby
  • Nipping at the baby
  • Pulling and yanking on the baby’s clothes
  • Excessive and nuisance barking
  • Growling at the baby
  • Trying to ‘climb’ into their laps while they’re holding the baby, as if the dog were trying to knock the baby off.
  • ‘Pawing’ at the baby
  • Stealing items belonging to the baby

So now, the question becomes “how do you correct these behaviors while balancing a baby in your arms?”  The best answer I can give you is not to wait until the baby arrives.

Start prepping the dog in advance for its arrival. Here are some of the ways you can easily accomplish this. Some may feel or seem a bit silly to you, but trust me when I say about 95% of the time, early preparation works.

  1. Get a small box of diapers. Put a few piles in rooms like the bedroom, living room, bathroom, and any other areas you might be typically changing the child’s diaper in the future.  A clean diaper has no odor to us, but you better believe it does to a dog that can track a scent for hundreds of miles. This accomplishes two things; it allows your dog to familiarize himself with something that will be around constantly in the very near future, and enables you to correct him if he goes to steal or chew them. If he sniffs it and walks away, this is the appropriate behavior, so make sure you praise him. If he goes to grab it, make a loud noise and in a firm (but not angry) voice say “LEAVE IT!”. If he leaves it alone, praise him.
  1. Get a doll.  Get a doll the size of a real-life baby, put a diaper on it, swaddle it, and start walking around the house with it in your arms. As you walk, do the same rocking, cooing and coddling you will be doing for your real baby. More often than not, the dog will get excited and go to jump up and may even go a bit nuts barking. It is important at this moment to remember that your dog is not trying to hurt the baby, but more likely just responding to the same baby talk that you have used on him for the last several years. This is why this practice is so important.  Use this time to make whatever corrections are necessary to ensure your real baby will be coming home to a safe environment. With a doll in your arms, you can firmly push him down and tell him, “OFF!” and when he isn’t jumping, tell him “GOOD BOY” and you can bend down to his level with the doll in your arms and let him sniff it. While he is doing that, make sure to tell him, “EASY” and again, praise him.
  1. Sound Effects  Another suggestion I offer people is to pull up a sound effect of a baby crying on YouTube, and use your cell phone to record it. The one I have used before is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TjmHkVMEdI. Put the doll down either on a blanket on the floor or in the crib if you already have one set up, put your cell phone next to it, play the recording, and watch your dog’s reaction. More often than not, your dog will just sniff at it out of curiosity. If that is all he does, make sure to pet and praise him.  If he goes to nudge or paw the doll, correct him by telling him, “EASY” again. Now lie down on the blanket with the doll and the dog. You will see he feels much less threatened when he is included. Continue working on this for a while before bringing your new baby home, and make sure the dog understands the “rules of engagement”
  1. Once baby is born  While Mom and baby are still in the hospital for the first few days, have Dad or whoever is watching the dog bring home the real baby’s unlaundered clothes, and even a few dirty diapers. (Yes, I know this is kind of gross.) Put the clothes that the new baby has already worn on the doll so that the dog can get used to the scent. Praise the dog when he sniffs at the doll in the baby’s clothes appropriately, and if the dog goes to grab at the clothes, make the same correction you made earlier. And let the dog sniff the dirty diaper. These are all scents that the dog must get used to… he’ll be around them for awhile!
  1. dog adjusts to babyHomecoming Day  The last piece of advice is if Dad has been home with the dog while Mom was away having the baby, Dad should be the one to bring the baby in. Your dog has not seen Mom for a few days and may be excited to see her and jump up on her. Mom needs to greet the dog when she comes in and spend a minute or two with him, but also correct his jumping.

In closing, just remember…. Your dog does not do well with change, so it is up to you to help him adjust to everything prior to it happening. While I have heard at times, “My dog took right to the baby and they have been best friends ever since”  … Why take chances when it is easy enough to ensure a good home-coming with a great outcome.

Photo credit: Wayan VotaCC license

Child Has a Severe Allergic Reaction: Can Your School Help Them?

The sad story of a seven year-old girl who was unwittingly given a peanut by a classmate in Virginia and later died from an allergic reaction has brought attention to the issues surrounding food allergies and medical treatment at schools. The school legally couldn’t give any medication that wasn’t supplied by the parent.

What are the regulations at your child’s school around food allergies? Do they have an EpiPen on hand, and can they use it without written permission?

How does your child’s school handle birthdays? Bake sales?

My children know the strict “no sharing food” policy at school. I drill it into them.

But is there any real way to know that every child is following that rule?  How do you deal with this??


Editor’s Note:

Even though the story of the 7 year old mentioned above happened a number of year’s ago, parents please note – the questions asked are just as relevant today…  the laws governing the use of medication by schools are NOT consistent nation-wide. Please take the time and find out what your school’s policies are even if – especially if your child doesn’t have any “known” food allergies.  It could just save their life.

To Our Wonderful Readers…An Important Update

We wanted to update you about some changes happening this year at Pediatric Safety…

As many of you are probably aware, we have spent the last 9+ years publishing content that has allowed us to make a difference in the lives of families across the globe.  We’ve done our best to be there for you when you needed us.

In the coming months we intend to implement a new “look” for Pediatric Safety and focus a bit more on areas where we believe we can provide a greater impact.  This is a fairly intensive effort, and truthfully, we don’t have the resources to do everything and do it well.  Which means we need to cut back on our publishing of new content and publish less frequently.

We are telling you this because as someone we value, we didn’t want you to be surprised when we show up a little less often in your mailbox or in your social media.

We’re not closing-up shop!

We’re just doing what we need to, to make sure we continue to provide you with the best possible content and experience that we can, now and for the foreseeable future. We hope you’ll continue to take this journey with us…and please…suggestions are welcome!

We wish you and your families a Happy and Healthy 2019!

~ Stefanie, Clara, Jim and Audra ~