Recently I ran into a former client who is also a vet tech. She gave me the happy news that she and her husband are expecting a child soon. She asked if I had any advice for her regarding the dog’s introduction to this new family member. Since she had already trained her dog, she had done much of what needs doing, but I did remind her of one important thing: to change any rules that are going to need changing now! Don’t wait because you don’t want your dog to associate any loss of privileges with the baby’s arrival. The most important of these rules is no jumping on people or furniture or in the case of smallish dogs, no dogs on the furniture unless you physically pick them up and put them there! Newborns have the wonderful quality that if you lay them down somewhere (like in the middle of the bed) they stay put, which is very convenient. It’s also really nice to know that your dog won’t be jumping up there to check on and perhaps step on the baby, so no dogs on the furniture is a good rule to have in place right from the start.
Another good idea my wife reminded me of is that it’s best not to wait until you’re pregnant before you start doing the training. She speaks from experience since she was working with our American Staffordshire Terrier Vicki, while she was pregnant.
In general, if problems are going to develop, it will happen when the baby first comes home as discussed above, or more commonly when the baby becomes mobile at about nine months give or take. Problems are more likely if the owners “babied” their dog before the human baby arrived so that the dog experienced a noticeable loss of attention and privilege once the baby came home. This is an unhealthy situation. If you thoughtfully establish rules well before your baby arrives and do your obedience work to a high standard, your dog will be respectful of you and your baby when the big day comes and even when he or she starts to crawl!
One other benefit of doing the training early is that practicing the obedience exercises with your dog after the baby comes is a handy way to give him some concentrated attention— something he will likely feel the loss of after the baby arrives. Twenty minutes of training while the baby naps goes a long way toward satisfying you dog’s need for personal attention. It exercises his brain, and keeps him sharp on his skills, which in turn keeps him out of trouble. After all you don’t have time to deal with a badly behaved dog, you’ve got a baby!