How to Train a Dog for a New Baby
Congratulations! You’re about to add a new baby to your family, and no doubt this will be a huge transition for everyone in the home—especially if your dog is the only “child” at home. Because your attention will have to be divided, it’s important to stay on top of dog training, so your pup also is ready for the new bundle of joy.
Dr. Amy L. Pike, DVM, DACVB, chief of the behavior medicine division of the Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia recommends these dog training tips and tricks to help you prepare and make the change at home as smooth as possible.
Start Preparing Your Dog for a Baby Early On
The best time to begin training your pup for the new baby is at the beginning of your pregnancy or when you begin preparing for your adopted baby’s arrival.
Move your pup’s meals to a safe zone.
If your dog typically grazes throughout the day, begin feeding him discreet meals behind closed doors or a baby gate, like Regalo’s Easy Open gate, to create a safe barrier for when your dog is eating, Dr. Pike says. Making this change before your new baby arrives will lessen the stress of the situation and not make it feel like this change is out of the ordinary or because of your new addition.
“One of the times that kids are most often bitten by their own dog is when the child interacts with the dog while he’s eating,” Dr. Pike says.
Confining your dog to a safe space does no harm and helps prevent the worst from happening by the time your new baby is mobile.
Slowly introduce all of the new baby equipment.
“Start getting all of the equipment as soon as you can so that it is not an abrupt change and it’s more gradual over the nine months,” Dr. Pike says.
Simple things like walking short distances with the baby stroller, carrying the infant car seat inside the house and having the baby’s room set up allows your dog to get used to all the new scents and items long before there’s a new baby to get used to as well. Dr. Pike recommends adding these throughout your pregnancy.
Make all furniture off-limits.
Another area where dogs can be territorial is while resting on the furniture. Dr. Pike says this is another area where kids can end up being bitten, usually when approaching the dog while he’s resting on the furniture. To avoid this from happening, train your dog that the couch and bed are off-limits long before the new baby arrives.
Spoil your pooch with a new luxurious sofa bed to curl up on, so he’ll have no trouble switching over from the human’s sofa to a pooch one! This dog bed from Frisco features fluffy, shredded foam filling for orthopedic support.
Teach Your Dog Basic Dog Training Commands Before Baby Arrives
Some basic dog training commands will become your best friend when your new baby comes home. Here are three commands to focus on so you can control a situation at home whenever you need to:
- Sit: The sit command is important. If you associate this command with gaining your attention, then your dog will be less likely to jump out of jealousy or frustration. (Click here to learn how to teach your dog to sit.)
- No Jumping or Off: Dogs are known to jump up to greet people at the door, and that is a big no-no—especially when adding a newborn child to the mix. Teaching your dog off is also great for when your dog tries to sneak his way onto your furniture. The earlier you teach this command, the better. (Read how to teach your dog the off command)
- Leave It: Pacifiers are off-limits! When your pooch heads toward them, and any other of your baby’s things, use the leave it dog command so he knows to keep his paws off and walk away. (Get step-by-step instructions to teach your dog to leave it.)
If your dog doesn’t like to spend much time without you, then you should teach your dog to gain some independence. Independence training is a valuable technique that will make life easier for you and safer for your pup and new baby. This means teaching your dog things like going to his dog bed when told and keeping himself occupied with a chew toy, like the Benebone peanut butter-flavored dog chew.
“This is important to start early on before the baby comes home,” Dr. Pike says. “Independence training is the key to shifting the relationship from one of undivided attention to set attention times.”
Divide Your Attention the Right Way
“One of the biggest mistakes we make as parents is only paying attention to the dog when the baby is sleeping or otherwise occupied,” Dr. Pike says.
If you only pay attention to your dog when the baby is not around, “this may cause the dog to truly perceive the baby as the thing that takes attention away from him,” Dr. Pike says.
It’s crucial to find balance so there is no sense of jealousy whenever the baby is around. The simple way to accomplish this is to give your fur baby and human baby attention at the same time, so your dog feels included in the mix.
“If the dog gets played with and trained while you’re holding the baby, then your dog will start associating the presence of the baby with good things,” Dr. Pike says.
Other Helpful Tips for Preparing for a New Baby
Understand your dog’s body language.
This is “key to ensure that the owner knows when their dog is uncomfortable and could potentially become aggressive,” Dr. Pike says.
Get tips for decoding your dog’s body language here.
Introduce baby sounds to your pet by putting on a CD or an online video that plays noises babies make. This will help familiarize your dog with these sounds.
“Play it at a volume that does not cause the dog fear or anxiety, and toss the dog high-value dog treats so [he] can associate the noises with good things,” Dr. Pike says.
Train your dog to not go in the nursery (aka baby’s room).
“Having the nursery off-limits is also a good idea so that the dog learns to wait outside the room and does not attempt to jump on the baby or into the crib, or steal the baby’s things,” Dr. Pike says.
You can do this by shutting the baby’s door every time you go in and out or by using a baby gate that opens and closes.
Hire dog walkers and trainers.
Give your dog the ultimate “firstborn” treatment by providing him with a dog walker to come midday for some exercise. An added bonus is that you get a break during this period as well.
You also can hire an experienced positive-reinforcement trainer to help you with introductions and building a positive relationship between the baby and the dog, Dr. Pike says.
As you’re busy preparing for your new baby, you might not have a lot of time to focus on dog training. Make this experience easier for you and your pooch by reading a book, like “Dog Training for Dummies,” or heading to an obedience training class.
“Attending a positive-reinforcement-based class also will help strengthen the bond between dog and owner in a way that is not about just snuggles and attention, but is structured and predictable, which can help when the baby comes,” Dr. Pike says.
As you follow these dog training tips and tricks, you and your family will be ready for your new bundle of joy to meet your current one.
Lindsay Page, Pet Central Associate Editor
The moment Lindsay started her career here at Chewy, she hit the ground running in customer service; she knew that this is the company she wanted to grow with from then on. When Lindsay isn’t spending her time writing for Pet Central, she’s most likely binge-watching a Netflix series with her husband and their 80-pound fur baby, Dexter.
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