Preparing your dog for the eventuality of an introduction to a new baby begins long before baby arrives. It begins when the dog is 8 weeks old and with puppy socialization classes.
Any single person contemplating cohabitation and marriage or any established couples who own dogs and hope to have children in the future need to get their ducks in a row when their canine companions are a mere 8-20 weeks of age.
For the future safety of the intended children and the welfare of their pets people must be cognizant of the fact that they have to socialize every single dog with children, babies, toddlers, infants etc. when they are still in their puppy-hood period. One cannot socialize adult dogs reliably with true safety and family security. Once dogs have set aggressive or fearful ideas on children it is irresponsible to believe that medication, sterilization, environmental and owner behaviour modification will solve these behaviour patterns.
The dog is known to be man’s best friend but can be a child’s worst enemy. Tragedies occur when dogs threaten, bite, attack, mutilate or kill children and the blame lies completely at the door of the owners. Dogs are “what you put in, you get out” creatures. Even if there is a genetic fault in the temperament, this should be detected during puppy training and nipped in the bud.
Too many single people and childless couples treat their dogs as children until they have children of their own. Setting precedents like having the dog share the bed, sit on the lap in front of TV, spending endless energy patting, cuddling and talking to the dog will have serious repercussions when a baby is brought in to the dog’s established den and domain. Many pet owners talk to their dogs as if they are children e.g. “Hullo,my baby…” ”Mommy’s home!” ”Hullo my darling” but when they say the same words with identical tone to the newborn baby the dog will respond as it has been accustomed to and attempt to solicit interaction, even shoving itself between baby and parent. This response is anthropomorphically and incorrectly interpreted as jealousy. If the inquisitive dog is pushed away it will associate the baby as the cause of rejection and negative social reinforcement.
Dogs do not perceive a child as a cute human being that should be treasured and handled with gentleness, unless it has been positively socialized to be tolerant. The average untrained pet dog will regard a new baby as a strange intruder emitting unfamiliar sounds and odours who is receiving an enormous amount of immediate privilege. This shock to the pack system may instill the need in the dog to defend its status by exhibiting aggression or anxiety. The latter response may create such an unsettling situation that the previously beloved pet is cast outdoors, worsening the problem, or taken to the vet for euthanasia.
Every parent wants a child-proof dog. This requires common-sense planning when the canine is 8 weeks old and starting puppy socialization classes. Plan for the future! The dog is a pack animal (gregarious – enjoy living in groups, similar to people, antelope and birds) and must be part of the family to become tolerant and socially acceptable. This applies to singular or multiple canine households.
Prospective parents who own dogs must clearly envisage the future scenario:
- How will their lifestyle change?
- How will the baby impact on the dog’s routine?
- Will they be able to devote the same amount of attention and time to their pets?
- Will an indoor dog remain so or be cast outdoors?
- Will the dog be chased off beds and furniture?
- How will the dog behave when it sees a crawling toddler on the carpet?
- How will the dog respond if the baby starts crawling and walking and falls on top of the sleeping dog?
Why should any dog relinquish its supreme reign without a fight?
Why should a spoiled dog suddenly have to share with a baby?
Every puppy should experience puppy socialization and basic obedience training. During the imprinting period there has to be positive exposure and interaction with all the inevitabilities in life, children included, babies to teenagers.
When a woman conceives she must prepare the dog for the arrival of a baby. Reduce all privileges and interaction to a minimum acceptable level.
The dog must be introduced to the baby on its arrival home by allowing it to smell the newborn’s feet and then offered treats. This must be done without crowds. The dog must share the baby events e.g. be fed in the nursery while the baby is screaming or nappies are being changed. The privileges should increase after the baby’s arrival. Visitors must fuss the dog before cosseting the new family member. Parents must convey to their pet that it is part of the action, gets rewards for tolerance and is again loved much more than when the wife fell pregnant. The child must be regarded by the canine companion as an asset and not a liability.
A dog and a child must always be vigilantly supervised. Never leave a dog on its own with a child. You never know what the child can do to the dog and you should know what the dog can do to the child. Don’t set the pet and yourself up for disappointment.