Be Dog Wise week is behind us, but that doesn’t mean we should relax when it comes to dog safety. Indeed, it is our hope that the message we worked on spreading last week will get passed on for the entire year-and people will be aware of all types of dog safety, be it safety when travelling with your dog, safety when training your dog, even knowing the safety involved in dog hygiene.
But there are some very specialised areas of our safety campaign that may not apply to everyone, but for those it does apply to, it is very important.
And that is the antenatal aspects of dog safety; preparing your dog for the arrival of a new baby. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for couples with a new baby to rehome their dog. There is a myth that it is not safe to have a dog when you have a new-born baby. This is untrue. We believe that dogs are a part of our family, and are not disposable, therefore if the proper preparations are undertaken, there is no reason that a baby and a dog cannot coexist in harmony.
But you must do some groundwork. And that’s where we come in.
Paws, think and Stay Safe, the Be Dog Smart way!!!
First, you need to do the preparation work before baby comes along. It is a fact that you will be spending less time with the dog when your new child arrives. Looking after a new-born is hard work, and, for at least a little while, your dog may not get quite the amount of attention they are used to. You might therefore be tempted to overcompensate now. Spend more time with the dog in the present to make up for the loss of time later. Don’t do this. Dog’s won’t see the logic of it, they will suddenly have you for less of the day, and attribute this to the baby. A much better approach is to work out what your timetable will be with the dog when baby arrives and wean them onto this now. Therefore, when the baby does arrive, nothing will have changed in their routine.
Now, about the sleeping arrangement. Does the dog sleep in a different room to you? If so, great. You can skip this section. If, however, your dog sleeps in your bedroom, or in your bed, we recommend changing this before baby arrives. You might think you’re being cruel, removing them from their regular place of sleep, but when the baby arrives, your room will be a different type of bedroom. There will be crying throughout the night, and much more activity then they are used to. You will find it much easier to change the dogs sleeping habits before baby arrives then after. So, we recommend doing this asap.
You mean I get this bed all to myself????
And while we’re on the topic of noisy babies, it might be an idea to expose them to some baby crying sounds. Youtube is a wonderful resource, so use it. We’re not entirely sure who puts videos of crying babies online, but they’re very useful for these purposes. Start on a low volume, and slowly raise it. It may be your dog won’t even notice, but on the off chance they find the noise a bit distressing, you will be able to condition them before baby comes home.
Use this time before baby arrives to habituate them to baby paraphernalia. Prams, buggies, baby toys etc. The less life changes for them the day baby comes home the better.
You could also bring them to the vet for a check-up. Make sure everything is top notch while you have the time. Soon there won’t be nearly so much of it.
When Mum is in hospital, perhaps someone could bring home a blanket that smells of baby, and when dog does meet baby for the first time, do it in a relaxed and calm manner. Praise the dog for gentle curious interaction, but don’t punish them for doing something you’re not happy about. Just stand up, ignore them, and then start again, rewarding them for positive behaviour. Remember, never leave your child alone with the dog. Babies have a tendency to grab at things, and you don't want to put your dog in a situation where they might be distressed at getting their ears or tails pulled. So whenever they are together, you must supervise. You may find it easier if you have one place in your home that is a dog free zone, and vice versa, have an area in the house the baby won't spend time in (perhaps a hall?). This way, if your dog wants some alone time, they know there is a place they can retreat to without getting disturbed.
Smells like I have a new baby sister!
Try to remember that although you have a new baby, you are still the most important thing in the world to your dog, and they deserve your continued love.
If you have further questions, we are hosting some Safety workshops in our rehoming centre in Dublin. You can read about these here.
But to summarize our thoughts and advice, the most important thing to remember is, Be Dog Smart!!!