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What can we do to show our dog that our baby is higher status in our family then he is?
Thank you for this question as this is one that comes up a lot. Honestly the most important thing is for you to teach your dogs how you want them to behave around the baby. It really is not about “status” but rather about calmly teaching your dog what you want and deciding what boundaries are comfortable for your family. Baby and dog relationships develop over time through positive exposure, familiarity and supervision. Here are some tips I feel are essential for families with babies and dogs.
- Prepare ahead! Our DVD or a Dogs & Storks presenter can help you get this going. Begin early in your pregnancy if possible.
- Allow your dog to observe you and the baby and all routines as soon as you are comfortable doing so. The sooner the better. The more familiar with the baby sounds, motions and smells the better. Our blog talks about safe ways to do this from the first day you come home.
- Allow the dog to sniff your baby’s feet or old outfit while saying the baby’s name. “Good dog, this is scott.” Etc.
- Invite your dog over for attention while you are holding the baby. Follow what feels comfortable for you. There is no need to require the dog stay a specific distance away from the baby in an effort to show status. In fact by not allowing them to come near you when holding the baby can increase the tension and novelty of the baby. Encourage calm behavior and include your dog as much as possible in all routines. This can be just simply allowing them to follow you from room to room and talking to them using the baby’s name etc.
- Keep in mind that your dog is watching you and will pick up on your stress. It is a good idea to allow your dog to go to their “dog zone” during times you feel overwhelmed or the baby is extra fussing. This is a great time for a food dispensing toy that has frozen goodies to work out.
- ALWAYS SUPERVISE and NEVER leave the baby alone where the dog may have access without you. Even good dogs are DOGS and will naturally behave as a dog without their person to defer to and guide them. A crying wiggly baby can be very intriguing to even the best of dog.
Notice the difference in these photos. One moment the baby is not interesting but the next she is. This is a great example of why parents must be there and constantly supervising.
What has changed?
Reward your dog for doing what you want.
This ensures that good behavior will continue.
Most of all take time to enjoy the true benefits of having your dog in your life. Enjoy cuddling, brushing and walking with your dog as great stress busters for you! Your dog's life will be different as will yours. Different can be fantastic when given a chance.