The First Year with a Baby and Dog
I could talk for England on this topic so to keep it brief and less like a book, this is my account of the last year with my dog and baby and some important points for you to consider. While you will see some training tips, I have kept that to a minimum as there is no one size fits all and if you have concerns about how your dog will adjust i strongly recommend you speak with a local behaviorist such as myself.
I have always said my learning with training dogs never stops and this is one of those times where i have learnt every step of the way. Now I can happily say that I've experienced life with both a baby and dog at the same time, I finally understand all the responsibilities and implications that come along with the pair. Even in my case where my dog is 5 years old and fairly well trained before I welcomed a newborn into the family, we came across some hiccups and especially when welcoming our other families dogs into the same environment so let's talk about that some more.
As a dog trainer and behaviourist I would have tried to understand this before but now having brought a baby home with a dog in our family I am finally able to truly understand what becoming a new mum with a dog or puppy at the same time really means. I now know how hard being a new mum can be and also the toll it takes on our pets, the early months especially, at times i felt like my slightly anxious puppy had disowned me for bringing this crying mini human home and never seeming to put her down for some much needed cuddles with my puppy. I felt all kinds of new mummy guilt that i didn't expect but threw it all, i learnt so much personally and professionally, and we have only been going at it for a year.
Studies have proven that children growing up in a home with animals such as dogs and cats have less chance of health issues such as asthma and eczema later in life, as well as the emotional benefits a child receives from growing up with a pet is astonishing! Children growing up with dogs are less likely to be nervous or experience mental health issues later on in life as well as the benefits when a child has a learning disability such as autism or dyslexia. The first time my little one started using her voice was to talk to our dog Roxy, like wise when she started showing interest in books, she would sit with Roxy and "Read" to her for ages.
Some dogs have a natural ability to recognize when a human is in need of a certain delicacy and others may lack in the same gentle finesse.
Starting from the beginning, if you are able to put some training in place before your baby comes home then that is the best outcome in this situation. By leaving the training to the last minute you're much more likely to come across some issues, if you have concerns about how your dog will cope with a new family member coming home perhaps it would be a good idea to consult your local behaviorist to have their help in ensuring its a smooth transition.
If your dog has been sleeping on your bed climbing up on your sofa and sleeping on your lap, You might like to practice the 'ask' command. This might be a shock to your dogs way of life if they have never had to ask before jumping up onto your sofa so be patient and consistent and they will soon understand what they need to do.
For this every time your puppy helps themselves to your space ie sofa or bed you hook one finger in their collar, lead them to the floor and as you do this say the word ‘off’ not to be commonly confused with 'down' as this means to lay down. Once they're on the floor and stood or sat in front of you can pat the sofa and say 'up' and then have your cuddles. Notice when your puppy starts to do this on their own and remember you must invite them when they asked nicely and later on you can choose appropriate times for your dog to jump up onto the sofa or bed such as not when you're nursing or settling your baby.
There will be baby toys all over the place! Depending on where your dog is in their development might depend on whether you can leave these toys on the floor or if they need to be placed somewhere out of your puppies reach before you leave the room. Your dog will also have lots of toys around the house and you will need to monitor these around your baby as she grows and becomes a little person. You may wish to teach your puppy the 'leave' command and that not everything on the floor belongs to them, that there is a difference between 1 item on the floor and another, to do this you will need to teach your puppy about invisible boundaries and possessions.
Safe Place i.e. Crate Or Bed
Your baby will have her cot so it's only fair your dog has their bed, this is a safe place for your dog to go when they are perhaps feeling overwhelmed. Babies cry, and some might cry a lot, this could be distressing for any dog (or human for that matter) so not only will you need to handle your baby crying, you will also need to reassure your dog in the right way that everything is still OK. One way we can teach our dogs to self settle is every time they take themselves to their bed or crate, to gently praise them and over time they will realise their bed is a safe place and will associate the feeling of your praise with when they go to their bed.
The bed or crate is also a place where they should never be told off or sent to if they have been naughty (i like to say miss guided). If they choose to completely destroy their bed or defecate in their crate you should not punish them for this, just simply clean up the mess and continue to praise when they're in their bed and being calm naturally. Have beds around the house where you plan to be with your baby, if your dog is allowed in the nursery you might consider placing a dog bed in a corner and when you go in the room lead your dog to their bed and ask them to lay down, reward or praise when they do this each time you enter the room.
You could play crying and baby noises before to help desensitize your puppy but i tried this with our Roxy and she knows what comes from a phone or TV and will not give it the time of day. When my friend came over with her baby on the other hand... Roxy was more afraid then