Babyproofing your dog

When you have a baby on the way time is spent preparing yourselves and your home for the new arrival - but how do you prepare your pet?

Dog-training specialist Hanrob, provides advice for expectant parents on how to 'baby-proof' the family dog, so they can rest assured their home is a safe enjoyable place for everyone.

Establishing and exercising control is the most important aspect of 'baby-proofing' your dog. Dogs that jump, chew, get jealous, and try to share the bed need to be managed effectively to ensure a safe household for baby, and less stress for new parents.

Top ten tips for baby proofing your dog:

  1. Don't wait until baby arrives to change the dog's routine - boundaries should be established 3 months before baby arrives.
  2. Establish pack hierarchy to establish respect from the dog and control over its behaviour.
  3. Create a positive environment and ensure your dog's experience with the baby is positive.
  4. Maintain your interaction with the dog to the same or similar level as pre-baby, ensuring you don't ignore the dog when the baby arrives.
  5. Involve your baby in experiences with the dog such as playing ball and grooming supervised by you at all times
  6. Ensure the dog is not rewarded for bad behaviour around the baby.
  7. Don't make a huge fuss of the introduction to baby.
  8. Restrict your dog so it doesn't have the run of the house.
  9. Always ensure the dog is not left unsupervised with the baby.
  10. Reward the dog for good behaviour around the new baby.

Ensuring strong household boundaries, a positive association with the baby and rewards for good behaviour will minimise jealousy.

Hanrob Managing Director, Andrew Biggs explains, "Although your dog is a loved part of the family, they are a pack animal, and parents need to be noticed as being leaders. If you want the dog to respect the child, the dog must understand this."

Changes to your dog's lifestyle and routine should be established well before your new baby arrives. For example, if the dog sleeps in your bedroom, it is strongly advised to move your dog to another location in the household at least three months before baby is due; if it will need to spend more time outside, condition the dog to its new routine over the months leading up to the birth.

"Training a dog to change behaviour takes time so we recommend implementing changes to your dog's routine at least three months before the baby's arrives.

Parents need to establish control over the dog and to teach the dog to control its emotions around all distractions," Biggs continues. For those who's dog has a tendency to chew, expectant parents need to establish boundaries inside the house so that the dog doesn't impinge on the baby's play area, ensuring it will not have access to the baby's toys.

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"Dog toys and babies toys will each have their own scent and the dog will know the difference. However, if your dog loves toys, they will chew on whatever they can get unless you establish the boundaries," says Biggs.

If you need to train your dog to walk next to the pram, Hanrob advises parents introduce the pram to walks before the baby arrives, ensuring the dog has a positive association with walking and the pram together. This should be continued until you are confident in your complete control of the dog when walking.

Introducing the dog to your newborn
When you bring your newborn home from the hospital, the introduction should be a positive experience for both dog and baby.

"The dog must be under control when you arrive at home so if you have any doubts we recommend keeping the dog on a lead. It's important to block the dog from having any success in unwanted behaviours towards the baby such as over excitement.

Parents need to promote a positive environment at all times around the baby so that the dog has no negative associations towards the child and mother. Having established changes in the dog's routine over the month's prior, the dog will be adaptive to change. If you ensure the introduction is calm, without too much fuss, the dog will react accordingly.

To help your dog associate the baby with something positive, Hanrob recommends rewarding the dog heavily for its good behaviour when it is being introduced to the baby. A combination of treats and praise can be used to do this.

Ensuring strong household boundaries, a positive association with the baby and rewards for good behaviour will minimise jealousy, chewing on baby's toys and unfavoured sleeping arrangements among pets.

"We recommend expectant parents invest time in as much dog obedience training as possible before the baby arrives. Knowing you are in complete control of your dog will give you peace of mind and make its introduction to your new family member a stress free, positive experience for everyone," Biggs continued.

This article has been supplied by Hanrob. Hanrob offers a range of dog training solutions, including home dog training, dog training school (with boarding) and group training classes.

Discuss your pet and family in the Essential Baby pets forum.