‘GoodDog’ was one of my son’s (Ruben) first words. First thing he does when we get downstairs in the morning is to look for the ‘gooddog’. He has learned to pat our dog (Mayhem) gently and gets hours of amusement by bringing things to the dog to examine/eat. When he is in other people’s houses he searches their gardens for their ‘gooddog’, because clearly it must be around here somewhere – I mean, doesn’t every garden have a dog?
If Ruben hears Mayhem whimper in the other room he will drop what he is doing and go investigate that the ‘gooddog’ is ok. This included learning how to open the kitchen door which heretofore impeded the investigation.
On the flip side when the little boy goes away for a few days Mayhem mopes and howls because he misses his little friend. No amount of attention from others in the house can substitute affection from the little boy.
It’s probably that because my son is an only child that the dog by default has become his best friend, but there is no denying the bond.
However, as lovely as all this is now, it took some consideration to ensure that it was so, and that there were no jealousies between the two. Some of the things we did were:
- The dog never slept in our room, he always slept downstairs. If the dog does sleep in your room at the moment move him out now before the baby arrives, that way the move can not be associated with the arrival of the baby.
- Similarly Mayhem was always in the sitting room/kitchen with us. There will be times when the baby arrives when the dog will need to be in the other room or outside. Start doing that now, on random occasions put the dog out of the room. This is to show him that being put out is not a punishment, its just another place for him to be.
- Restructure the dog’s walk so that it is either something one partner can cover while another watches the baby, or is something that can be done with the baby. Some people give their dogs two short walks a day, others give one longer walk, either is fine. In the first few weeks consider outsourcing this chore to either a dog walker or any one who says the words ‘let me know what we can do to help!’.
- When the baby arrives try to maintain the dog’s routine. From the dog’s perspective everything will be in upheaval, it will be getting less attention, there will be new people visiting the house and there is a new thing that keeps crying at night waking it up. There will be change all around and animals dislike change. Try to limit the impact of the change by feeding the dog at the same times, walking it when you used to etc
- Remove all toys. The baby will not understand not to chew the dogs toys and vice-verse. The only thing you can do to limit this is to remove the dogs old toys from the house and leave them in the garden to play. The dog will soon learn that all toys outside are for playing and those things that are inside the house that look like they should be toys are actually not for chewing. (I have to admit my level of success with this is only medium. Despite everything the dog did chew some of Ruben’s toys. And Ruben got his hands on some of the dogs toys which is worse! Uck!)
- Lavish affection on both at the same time. Hold the baby in your arms and pat the dog on the head. Sit with the crib on one side of you and the dog on the other. When the baby is young and playing on the floor, let the dog in the room but sit between the two. Show the dog that the new baby is not resulting in a decrease in affection for the dog.
- Ensure the dog understands the pecking order of the pack. Just as you did when you first got the dog, it is important that the dog understands that you are the pack leader and the other people in the house (including the new baby) are ahead of the dog in the pack.
- Discourage your dog from licking humans, or certainly from licking the baby. Dog tongues are full of bacteria and are not good for newborns. As my son started crawling my enforcement of this rule has decreased, but it was strictly enforced for at least the first 4/5 months.
- Be cautious of the dog around a newborn/pre-crawler, no matter how affectionate it is, and remember that dogs lift their babies by the scruff of the neck or head area. It would be dangerous for the dog to take on a mothering role, and see the baby as a puppy, so be mindful of this. Also dogs expect their young to be up and walking very quickly and will try to help the baby along – which you don’t want at an early stage
- Dogs like their puppies to sleep almost underneath them to keep them warm, so be careful of this particularity around big fluffy dogs.