Prior to Birth (throughout pregnancy, or as far ahead of birth/arrival as possible)
- Play a recorded tape of a baby crying at varying times during the day, evening & night. Start at lower volume and gradually work up over the days or weeks to a louder, realistic volume. Stay calm, go about your business as usual, and start also going into the "baby’s room", acting like you are taking care of the baby. You should also feed and play with dog while this tape is playing so that he begins to associate good things and fun times with this sound, rather than stress, isolation or punishment.
- Play with noise-producing baby toys and related items (rattles, music boxes, etc.) while occasionally treating dog with tiny pieces of his favorite treats.
- Introduce any other baby-related items and activities in a positive manner (with praise & treats) to dog, i.e., the smell of baby lotion; act like you’re changing a diaper.
- Practice walking your dog while pushing a baby carriage. Yes, your neighbors might think you’re crazy but it’ll help a LOT after the baby comes. You might consider purchasing a Halti or Gentle Leader collar for your dog it he pulls on the leash. Better yet: Teach him to heel (see next point)
- Sign up for a good, positive reinforcement basic dog obedience class where you & your dog will learn how to sit, stay, heel, lie down and come on command.
After the baby's arrival
- Before the baby comes home, place the newborn’s unlaundered swaddling cloths (from hospital on the first few days) around your dog’s food bowl so that he starts to associate the baby’s smell with good things like dinner.
- Ignore dog when baby is not present; give dog love & attention only when baby is present - This may seem silly and/or difficult and it’s exactly the opposite of what most people do but if your dog starts to believe that good things only happen when the baby IS around, he’ll be very happy to see the baby. If he starts to believe that he gets ignored and/or yelled at, put in his crate, chided, or punished when the baby is around, he won’t be happy to see the baby and you could be asking for problems. Ignore the dog when the baby is not around, and treat & praise & pet him when the baby IS around. Makes sense after you think about it, doesn’t it?
Tips when bringing the baby home
- This can be a very hectic time because the house may be full of family and friends, DON’T FORGET the dog is excited to see you. You have been gone for a day or two and your coming home is even more stressful for the dog because he doesn’t understand what is going on.
- Have someone else walk in with the baby and you go immediately to the dog and give it some attention. After you have the dog settled down, sit in a chair and have someone give you the baby, hold the baby in your lap and let the dog see and smell it. Do not hold the baby out for the dog to see because the dog will perceive that you are giving the baby to him and could try to take it.
- If the dog nuzzles too hard (which can be the dog trying to initiate play) correct with a command to be gentle then have him sit stay and regain his calm. If you see any sign of aggression, growling, hair raised, nipping confine the dog and call a trainer.
- After every one has left and the baby is quiet, place the dog on a down stay then get down on the floor with the baby and make the dog hold the stay. Spend a little time talking to the dog as you hold the baby and care for the baby.
- Remember that each new experience you have with the baby crying, feeding baths etc. are also new experiences for the dog, let him see what all the fuss is about and not be excluded so that no resentment starts.