It's hard for a dog who's always been treated like a baby to stand aside when a real baby appears on the scene. But that's exactly what your dog will have to do. Though a little initial moping around may be unavoidable, you'll want to do whatever you can to prevent any excessive jealousy and aggressive reactions.
Here's some tips of what you can do to prepare your family dog:
- Invest in an obedience training program for your dog if he/she isn't trained already - and even if you've never felt there was a need for it before. Friskiness and over-enthusiasm aren't usually a problem in a childless home, but they could be in one with a new baby. Particularly because your baby's behaviour whon't be controllable or predictable, your dog's must be. Obedience training won't take the spirit out of your dog, but it will make her more stable, and less likely to harm your baby.
- Get your dog used to babies now if you can. Invite friends with babies over to the house, or let her sniff a baby in a park or be petted by a toddler (with parent's permission of course). This will let your do become familiar with how a baby moves.
- Get your dog used to a baby in the house. Use a baby-size doll as a prop in her training. Change the doll's nappy, carry it, sing to it, rock it, nurse it, put it to bed in a cot, take it for a walk in the pram.
- If your dog usually sleeps in your bed, get your dog used to sleeping alone. Fix up a comfortable doggy bed in a corner - with a favourite pillow or blanket for company.
- Take your dog for a complete medical checkup. Be sure that your dog is flea and tick-free. Also be sure to check your dog for worms of any kind.
- If you have new puppies in your home, have them wormed as soon as possible.
- After delivery, but while you're still in hospital, have your husband bring home an unwashed piece of clothing your newborn has worn so that your pet can become familiar with the baby's scent. When you arrive home, let your husband hold the baby while you greet your pet. Then to satisfy her curiousity, let the dog sniff the baby. One the baby's snug in the cot, break out a special treat for the dog and spend a little time alone with her.
- Be attentive to your new baby but don't act over-protectively around your dog. This will only make the animal more jealous and insecure. Try to get your pet involved with the new addition and let her know she's still a loved member of the family. Pet her while you nurse, walk her while you take the baby in the stroller. Try to make a point of spending at least five minutes per day with her alone.
If despite your best efforts to prepare and reassure your dog, she still seems hostile towards the new arrival, keep her tied up and away from the baby until you're sure she's worked out her feelings. Just because a dog has never bitten before, doesn't mean she's not capable of it under such duress.