Do You Want Your Furry Friend and Your Baby to be Besties?
Does your dog like babies? Do you get nervous or excited when a dog (even your dog) approaches your or any baby? Would you like to be able to predict the outcome when your dog meets baby (yours or any baby)?
Babies look, act, and smell different to a dog. Consequently, some dogs avoid them and others get excited and may overreact.
Ultimately, how YOU respond to your dog’s approach and its reaction is what matters most for the end result. Your response now and going forward may also shape how your dog and baby will perceive each other in the future. If you are calm, your dog will be calm.
Six Success Tips for Your Dog and Baby to Be Besties
1. Know Your Dog and know your relationship with your dog. First of all, manage your expectations – Do Not expect your dog to automatically “love your baby as much as you do.” To a dog, babies are foreign creatures that look, sound, and smell ‘different’. They will want to use every sensory receptor available to them to ‘get familiar’ with this ‘new thing.’
2. Know Your Limits. If you know that your dog will get overexcited and will not heed your guidance, then perhaps now is not the right time to introduce a baby. It might be a good idea to first brush up on your relationship and some basic obedience to enhance your dog’s focus on, and respect for you.
3. Never ASSUME. Even though your dog may be super calm with your kids, doesn’t mean that it will know how to respond to a new baby – especially if they have never met a baby.
4. SUPERVISE at all times. No matter how well you think you know your dog, or how well behaved they are, NEVER EVER leave your dog alone with a baby or toddler. Sadly, it only takes an instant for tragedy to happen.
5. Let the dog decide. Have you ever interviewed a dog? As far as I know, no one has ever interviewed a dog. You cannot possibly know with absolute certainty what or how your dog feels in the presence of a baby. Therefore, don’t force the meeting or the friendship. Your chances for the desired outcome will be greater when each meeting with infants and toddlers (and adults too), is on the dog’s terms.
6. Set Crystal clear Rules and Boundaries. Remember, letting the dog decide to meet the baby does not mean that the dog is free to do what they want. You are responsible to show your dog what you want by remaining close, quiet, and calm. Before allowing any meetings with babies and toddlers be sure that your dog knows to keep all four feet on the ground and their mouth to themselves. Teaching your dog to respect your baby’s personal space NOW, will minimize behaviour problems in the future.
The Story of Charlie and Baby Evelyn
Here is how I applied the top tips to Charlie’s first meeting with Baby Evelyn:
Charlie Boston Terrier is as intrigued by Baby Evelyn as she is with her feet. While I know that Charlie means no harm, I don’t know if he has ever met a baby. However, in the interest of safety, I will assume that Evelyn is his first ‘baby encounter.’ I also know that the success of his first meeting with Evelyn will set the tone for the rest of their time together and possibly for future meetings with other babies.
From the outset, I stay close so that Charlie knows I am here to advocate for him if needed. Because I am assuming this is his first baby meeting, I can also assume that he has no idea what to expect from that funny looking, smelly creature in front of him.
If I totally block access, neither Charlie, Evelyn, or her Mom will learn how to be friends. If I get excited or nervous and move too quickly everyone will be startled and may respond impulsively and unintentionally.
By understanding Charlie’s response in new situations as well as setting clear boundaries while monitoring Charlie’s behaviour when near the baby and supervising his movements, I can predict the outcome with 100% reliability. By practicing this approach repeatedly everyone will learn to be comfortable together.