Children with pets are supposedly healthier and more emotionally balanced. But what do you need to keep your baby – and dog – safe?
Practicing walking with a pushchair (around your garden rather than the streets unless you want to get some very strange looks). Wear a sling around the house or carry a doll so they get used to you having your arms full. Have a revision lesson around the important commands like sit, stay and bed. And prepare a zone where they can retreat if it’s all too much. Once the baby is here get your partner to bring a blanket with the baby’s scent home so they have a chance to get used to it.
Try Dogs and Storks DVD for more tips or Tell Your Dog You’re Pregnant: An essential guide for dog owners who are expecting a baby. It comes with a CD of sounds your dog will have to get used to.
It sounds obvious but never leave the baby alone with the dog even for a second. Dogs have been know to try to move a baby by carrying the baby in their mouths the way a mother dog might do with her puppies. Other dogs have hurt babies because the baby moves and sounds like prey. Use and extra tall stairgate to keep them apart. The extra height will keep them from clearing it in seconds.
Give treats and lots of praise when your dog behaves well around the baby. If possible, take the whole family for a short, exciting walk as soon as the baby arrives so that he associates pleasurable activities with the baby’s arrival. And continue to give positive affection to both your baby and dog.
Make sure your dog’s worming and flea medication are all up to date. Book them before the birth if you need to and put a reminder in your calendar. It’s easy to forget with the chaos of a new baby. Anti bacterial wipes are great. But children with pets are actually more healthy – probably because their homes aren’t too sterile.
If your dog is struggling to adapt it doeesn’t mean you have to get rid of them. Classical music has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety in dogs (and children, too!) so products like Through A Dog’s Ear, a calming music series, played regularly may well help the transition. If your dog growls at your baby, it is probably fear-related; punishing the dog is likely to make it worse. Seek help from your vet or a behaviourist.