Families and new babies
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The arrival of a new baby is a very exciting time. With all the changes it’s important not to forget your pets. This is a very brief guide – for detailed guidance you should talk to a professional canine behavioural counselor. Guide dog owners should seek further advice from their Mobility Team.
Some important advice:
- Start your dog’s new daily feeding and walking schedule before the baby arrives, including a 10-minute quality period set aside for your pet. Signal this time by switching on a light or playing a particular piece of music and spend it petting, grooming and playing with the dog. This tells the dog it’s still important
- Ensure your dog is under control so you can take it everywhere you go with the baby – if you don’t, it will learn that the baby has displaced its role in the family and may display attention-seeking behaviours. If the dog does not behave instantaneously, teach it to walk in a Halti or Gentle Leader
- Before the birth, let your pet explore the baby's sleeping and changing area but don’t let it sleep on the baby's furniture. Let it get used to baby powder, lotions, and baby objects by sniffing them. If it tries to take a baby item, correct it by saying ‘no’ and asking the dog to drop it. If your pet has toys that look like children’s toys, it may think it can play with the baby's toys, which could prove dangerous. Change to more dog-orientated toys
- When the baby is born, have someone take home some articles of clothing the baby has used and allow your dog to smell them. Have the dog cared for in your home prior to the baby’s arrival, to decrease its stress levels
- When the baby comes home, you will need help. Someone should hold the baby while you greet the dog. If you have a dog that jumps, put it in another room until everything is calm
- Once the initial pandemonium is over, start introducing the dog to the baby. Someone should sit comfortably with the baby so you can control and monitor your dog. It should be able to smell the baby and explore but should be leashed in case it makes any sudden movements. If the dog is fearful, talk to it gently. Do not hold or dangle the child in front of the pet. Remember to be calm. If the dog growls at the infant, verbally correct this behaviour. If this doesn’t work, put the dog in another room until it is calm
- When there is only one person at home with the baby during the first few weeks, pets should be restrained or confined. Baby gates and indoor kennels can work well. If, after about 3 weeks, the dog accepts the baby with no untoward behaviour, it can be unleashed if closely supervised. The dog should never be alone with the child, even in passing. If the dog does not pose a safety hazard and is truly just being social, once it’s accustomed to the new baby it can accompany parents around the house with the baby. This helps future interaction between the child and the pet.