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Trainers like Diet Johnston, owner of Dog’s Day Out in Seattle, are getting calls from families desperate to help their pups adjust to a new baby. At the top of the list: bites. Dangerous and frightening to parents, a dog bite can be devastating to a family. Here are Danetti’s tips for preventing canine problems with your new baby, broken down into five categories: general safety, health care, desensitization, exercise, and training.
- dogs “to speak” Body language, they don’t have a verbal language. Dogs are more sensitive to motion than humans, and babies and children can move unpredictably, often making it difficult for dogs to read.
- Dogs don’t bite “From where I don’t know.” There are always signs before, and it occurs most commonly when the dog is asleep, eating or cornered. Remember: any dog that gets pushed or cornered can explode.
- Do not leave the child and the dog unattended. Make sure you give the dog its own space out of a child’s reach, such as a crate. Helpful tip: Make sure the dog can get out of the child and not get trapped in the corner.
- Watch your dog’s body language, especially signs of stress:
There are some zoonotic (transmissible between dogs and humans) diseases, but a few are of low severity. In fact, studies show enormous health and behavioral benefits for children living in a home with pets, including lower incidences of allergies and higher mental health benefits. Here are some best practices to keep in mind for a healthy home:
- Deworm your dog on a regular basis if you are concerned about worms (especially if your dog eats feces on walks).
- Keep the child away from dog poop. If your dog poops, pick him up right away.
- Don’t let your dog (or child!) drink standing water.
- General Health: Keeping your dog free of fleas and mites. Feed the dog high quality food, and keep him bathed and brushed.
- Keep your dog’s nails trimmed and filed. Long nails can easily scratch a child.
For behavioral preparation, your dog will need classical conditioning and desensitization, preferably before the baby is born. Condition the dog for various stimuli related to the baby by pairing it with tasty, high-value treats “scary” or an unfamiliar stimulus (something that makes the dog nervous or uncomfortable). There are some exercises you can do with your dog to get him used to “scary” Motivation for the child:
- Handling exercises can help your dog get used to handling a baby or young child. You can do this by touching different parts of your dog’s body (touch ears, feet, tails, grab collar etc.) while at SAME time feeding him tasty treats. Go slow. The goal is to keep your dog relaxed and comfortable while you do this. If he’s running uncomfortable, back off and wait until he’s comfortable and comfortable again.
- The dog is sensitive to the sounds of a child. You can purchase, download, or play videos using recorded baby voices and gradually exposing the dog to you.
- Improve your dog on baby equipment and toys that move or make amazing noises, such as swings or strollers. Pair the noise/swing/games with the sweet treats. For example, play the musical swing and give to your dog at the same time and then levitate on and off the rein. repeat.
- Improve your dog for kids and babies by associating all the kids with sweets! If you have friends with kids and the dog is now comfortable with a stroller (and comfortable around kids), have baby treats for your dog from the stroller or high chair.
When a baby is born, everyone’s schedule changes and dogs are creatures of habit. While your dog is thrilled to see you home all the time, he may also be missing out on his daily walk or a trip to the park. Exercise, physical and mental, is critical to your dog’s health.
- The standard recommendation for a young, active dog is 30-60 minutes of exercise twice a day. Trainers recommend 1 walk and 1 free play (dog park, fetch etc.). Some dogs need more, and some may need less.
- Increase mental stimulation with puzzles, edible food toys, and a scavenger hunt. Researchers and veterinarians are beginning to discover the importance of mental enrichment for dogs. Creative feeding (through playing, finding food in crates, in the backyard etc.) is a simple way to provide that much needed enrichment.
- Friends love to offer to help new parents! And since you can only fit so many lasagnas in your freezer, take people up on their offer to help: Have them walk your dog, take him to the park or toss a ball in the backyard.
- If your dog is not walking well on a leash before the baby arrives, work on teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash right away. If you need to, add a dog training class to your list of pre-baby lessons.
There are some very simple and specific cues that will be very helpful and make your life easier once the baby is here:
- Fixed signals like you sit, lowest, stay And I am waiting They are especially important when on leash, getting ready to walk out the door. These are simple skills that, when mastered, you can rest assured and trust your dog will behave.
- I am waiting He can be a lifesaver when your hands are full and your dog isn’t on a leash. I am waiting It simply does not allow your dog to step forward; It is different from staying in that we don’t care if the dog is standing, sitting, lying down, etc…, we just don’t want him to move forward. The hand signal to wait is a flat hand (the stop sign) in front of your dog’s face. As with sthis And lowest The dog must wait until you release it using the release command Good.practice I am waiting Go in and out of all entrances, his cage, and especially the car.
- Teach your dog not to jump up and act on other attention-seeking behaviors. Pre-infant is the time to teach alternative behaviors (eg: you sit to salute instead of jumping).
- Teach your dog “Go to the rug/bed/kennel.” Also, be sure to give the dog a safe space (a great crate) that is off limits to a child! Teach your dog “leave it” (item not yet in his mouth), and Drop (to actually release something in his mouth) Sign up for a good basic obedience class while you still have time!
Seeing your beloved dog and your new baby live and grow together is such a wonderful thing – be prepared, be safe and have fun! This content was written by Danette Johnston at Dog’s Day Out Seattle and provided by Healthy Paws Pet Insurance. Paws Health is the #1 provider of dog and cat insurance in the United States. Get a free quote today!