A question asked by many dog owners is how to best introduce a new pup or baby to the already established canine-member of the family. The following applies to the introduction of a new baby to your home.
First, jealousy is a human trait, not a canine trait. What dogs experience, when a new ‘family member’ is introduced, is confusion as to their place in the family. A dog that has been the center of attention may become confused and frustrated when that attention is abruptly divided, or even totally redirected, in favor of the newcomer. The dog may then ‘act out’ what it believes to be it’s place in the family, and if improperly corrected, may act out in a manner that is not compatible with the newcomer. Often the dog is then relegated to the back yard or a back room, which tells the confused dog that it is no longer in good standing with the family, or worse, to a shelter or the street, which tells him that he has no place in the family at all! (Yes, sadly people actually do discard dogs as though they are worthless!!!) It is important to make clear to your pup, from the start, the proper order of your family. This requires some obedience training, and the establishing of yourself as parent, that is leader of the family, long before the new baby arrives.
The ‘introduction’ to the new baby should also occur before the baby arrives.
First practice “down stay” all around the house and yard, many times a day. Have your pup stay in a “down” position for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, praising him/her lavishly. Be certain that this is a happy time with your dog. Do not correct angrily when your dog breaks the stay. Gently “return” him/her to the “stay” position.
Next, get a doll that is as close to lifelike as possible. The kind that makes a crying sound is best. Take your dog into the nursery every day, weeks before delivery. Have all of the materials that you will use on your baby in the nursery. Baby powder, diapers, creams, lotions…. the works. Simulate diapering the baby with the doll. Have your dog on a “down stay”, on his bed or mat, at the door of the nursery. As you are diapering the ‘baby’, tell your pup how good he is for staying in place. Incorporate the word “stay” in your lavish praise. Do not allow you pup to break from the stay or to whine. Praise him for staying nicely and for being quiet. “Good stay, Buddy”, or “Good quiet, Buddy”. Remember that you are praising the dog for obeying the stay command, not for leaving the baby alone!
Teach your dog the “careful” command. Lie on the floor on a blanket with the ‘baby’, (doll), and allow your pooch to lie quietly on the blanket next to you. If she paws at or tries to mouth the doll, make the appropriate gentle corrections to teach your dog that the doll is delicate and must be handled gently. Use the same word every time, and say it calmly. “Careful”, “gentle”, and “easy” are good words for this exercise. Choose one and be consistent with it.
Be certain not to act too cautiously when interacting with the ‘baby’. Be calm, affectionate and matter of fact so that the pup gets the idea that the baby is an important member of the family.
Next, if this is your first baby, socialize your dog with children and babies as you walk her around the neighborhood. Have your friends bring their babies to your home. The more your pup sees children and babies, the less curious and the more accepting she will be when yours comes home.
When you take your new baby home, repeat the exercises with the real baby as you did with the doll. Be very careful of your pup’s paws. Dogs often investigate with their feet and would have no idea that they might injure the baby by pawing at her. Do not punish your pup for using her feet, TEACH her to not paw at the baby!
Of course, always have your dog on lead and under control when introducing him to a new baby, remembering that dogs are never totally predictable.
Finally, it is very important that you do not punish your dog for his curiosity about the new pup or baby. Especially if the pup licks the baby. Best to not allow the dog close enough to the baby to lick him at first.
Punishing your dog for her interest in the baby can cause your dog to associate the newcomer with punishment and so to resent it. Good luck, and congratulations!