Resources For families with dogs and babies!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Decreasing reactivity at doors before baby.

Questions emailed in! We welcome your questions and Thank you for sending them to us!
Q. We are expecting our first baby and our dog acts nutty anytime someone comes in the door. What can we do to stop this behavior especially the barking so that our dog does not wake up our baby? Pam
A. Great question and one we get often! This is a common concern and thankfully there are many ways to help begin to decrease the excitment at the door. Another great point here is that your baby is already habituating and becoming familiar with your dog's barks and often parents find that their baby does not wake up when their dog barks. :) So good news all around. Here are some things to try when it comes to your dog acting as the social director at the front door.
1. Keep your returning homes calm as well as your leaving. Making the use of the door a non event will decrease the excitment. Do this by iignoring.....I mean ignoring your dog when you come home. Pick a focal point (like in labor) to look at when you enter your home and avoid eye contact with your dog as this invites wiggles and waggles and gives attention. Be quiet and go about an activity such as putting things away or making tea or changing clothes. ONce your dog settles down or defers to a toy then call him over for a calm reuniting. The point here is to not offer attention right away as this has been the pattern...door opens.....the party and greetings begin. You will need to practice this calm behavior many times to break an old greeting routine.
2. Try entering your home via another door. Practice the above at this new entry point and see how that goes.
If your dog is responding to the door bell here are a couple of tips.
1. Download a doorbell wav file similar to yours or record yours. Ring it and sit and read. Do nothing. Don't look up or react to your dog's antics, reward your dog the moment they make another choice or lie down or take their attention off the door, repeat. Over time the door bell sound becomes boring as nothing happens and the once novel sound is no longer excitinContg.
2. Another way is the visitor game. Door bell sound = dog goes to their spot with a treat while leaving the greeting up to their people. This exercise is a bit more complicated and we use tethering as stepping stone tool to build the behavior. Contact a presenter for ideas and tips to help your dog before baby arrives!

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