CONGRATULATIONS on your new baby!
Delta Dog Safe Tasmania has collaborated with Delta Certified Dog Trainers and Veterinary Behaviourists to help you ensure positive relationships between your baby and your dog.
Our main goal is to assist a smooth transition for the whole household – parents, baby and dogs.
Introducing your dog to your new baby
It is important for household harmony to ensure that the arrival of a new baby doesn’t create a negative association for your dog.
You can prepare and train your dog gradually prior to the baby’s arrival:
- Teach and reward your dog in how you would like it to behave. Getting your dog on a program of reward based training will only strengthen relations in a sometimes stressful household
- Tape babies crying and desensitise your dog to this sound
- If you are to change your dog’s routine (the amount of time spent with your dog, where the dog will be fed, where the dog will sleep) make the changes prior to the birth of the baby. Develop a routine for your dog which you will be able to continue after baby’s arrival home
- While your baby is in hospital, bring home a blanket or item of clothing that smell of the baby and allow your dog to sniff them
- Never punish dog for sniffing or attempting to sniff the baby
- Walking the dog with pram can be a great bonding experience
- Reward your dog for calm behaviour around your baby
- Don’t exclude your dog from your baby and have a bed for the dog in the same room where the dog can be rewarded for sitting calmly and watching the baby (always under supervision)
Toddlers and dogs
Toddlers and young children do not have the understanding or skills to handle a dog appropriately. A toddler has little concept of the pain inflicted on a dog when he/she handles it roughly and a dog’s natural reflex when threatened may be to defend itself by biting the child who is inflicting the pain. It is recommended that:
- Any child under seven years of age should not be left unattended with a dog
- Create secure areas for your dog where it can be separated from your toddler when constant supervision is not possible. This is for the safety of your toddler and your dog!
- Young children need to be taught how to interact appropriately with dogs and require positive messages and role models. It is important that parents model the desired behaviours and explain what they are doing and why
- As the baby grows, being aware that the toddler will try to grab the dog, no matter how tolerant the dog is, children should never be allowed to torment a dog in any way
The golden rules for a happy and safe household
- Babies and toddlers should never be left alone with a dog
- Interaction between you and your dog should NOT be limited to times when the baby/toddler is asleep
- Never leave your baby’s toys alone with the dog to chew and then tell them off for doing so
- Rewarding your dog with praise or food when the baby or toddler is in its presence creates a positive association for the dog. Punishing or shouting at a dog in the presence of a baby/toddler can create a negative association
- Start teaching your toddler about appropriate behaviour around dogs at the earliest opportunity
- Discourage your toddler from grabbing or hugging your dog around its neck. This is threatening and frightening for many. It is recommended that dogs be patted under the chin and on the chest (some dogs are nervous about being patted on top of the head because they cannot see what the hand is doing)
- Use baby gates and screen doors to give your dog some space to adjust to new sounds or just for some relaxing time alone
Be aware that children raised with tolerant and friendly dogs could be at risk with other dogs who may not be used to young children.
‘Tell your dog you’re pregnant. An essential guide for dog owners who are expecting a baby’ is a book written by Dr Lewis Kirkham which includes a CD with baby and toy noises to help you get your pet adjusted.