Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pets and New Babies

Please note: I am not a professional:
The main thing for any parent - even ones who have well adjusted dogs - is supervision, supervision and more supervision.  Children and babies make weird noies, they move about in weird ways and make quick jerky movements - this can be disconcerting to dogs especially a dog who is already skittish. And parents should be aware of this.
I can understand the Mom not wanting to go to 6 weeks of training to learn sit, stay, heel, etc.  But with children and pets, there is no easy, quick fix.  Especially for a skittish dog who might have missed out on human contact during his/her formative weeks/months or worse - has been abused.
Luckily the Mom has plenty of time though - during the pregnancy and while her baby is an infant she can start workinng on some socialization with her dog.
Dogs and humans get so much more out of training classes than sit, stay, come. They are around strange humans and other dogs in a relaxed and fun environment.  Getting a dog focused on commands is a great way to calm his/her frazzled nerves. Excerise and mental stimulation are so important for a dog's well-being. Especially a scared dog.  "A tired dog is a happy dog"
Also training is important so that the dog learns not to jump up on baby or a toddler.  So training reduces the chances of injury.
SA Big Dawgs offer free training classes every weekend so she can go when it suites her schedule and she is not obligated to a 6 week time block. The classes are on-going.  If the dog is a little skittish around other people or dogs, she can start off in the back and slowly work her way up.
Mom can ask the trainer about getting her dog used to the baby. I'm sure he will have good advice.
SA Big Dawgs also has free dog walking and socialization meetups all over town at different times of they day - weekdays and weekends.  Just walking with strangers will be good for the dog.  In the evenings and weekends children are usually at some of the walks which will provide some child time for the dog.  Just exercise extreme caution if she doesn' know how her dog will react around kids.
I am a big proponet of rewarding good behavior and ignoring bad behavior such as the techniques taught in Click to Calm.  Taking tiny baby steps. The Click to Calm book doesn't really address children, but the technique could be extrapolated:
To prepare the dog for a baby:
  • Play a recorded baby sounds for a few seconds; click, treat. If the dog doesn't look stressed, play the sound a little longer
  • Borrow baby blankets, baby clothes from friends, let your dog smell; click, treat
  • Get your dog used to child-type movements.  Wave your hand briefly; click, treat. If the dog doesn't appear stressed, wave hands more, click treat. 
  • When dog gets better with weird hand movements, start making other child-type movments like running in a weird way. Always stop if dog seems uncomfortable - remember baby steps
  • Bring baby things into the house and make noises with them  bottle, rattles, etc..
  • Use baby scents - powders, oils, etc..
  • It might seem a bit extreme but get a life-like baby doll - once that makes sounds and wiggles. Very slowly, get the dog use to it. Treat it like a real baby.
  • If your dog has any sensitve body areas (like feet, tail, ears), start working on desensitization very slowly.  Toddlers are going to be touching the dog everywhere (so remember supervision)
My own personal example of how training a dog can help her disposition. My Matt-Matt is very nervous. Lately he has decided that he is afraid to walk at night.  I took him out one night (against his wishes) and we sat a park in the dark and did some tricks - sit, sit pretty, lady down.  After a couple of minutes, he calmed down and walked normally  - instead of pulling like crazy to get back into the house.  We have done the same thing at the vet's office.
More information

Animal Education Links  - Go to item 2 - Resources. It has children's books. Can be used when the child is older but also can be used for the parent to teach the child about how to safefly live with pets - i.e. don't bother a dog when he's eating, etc..
You Tube - Pet Care For Kids - two of the videos are about pet care - made for kids.  One of the video is just for fun - If I were a cat
Humane Society info on Introducing Pets and New Babies - excellent info - including Spay and Neuter.  A spayed or neutered pet is likely to have fewer temperamental issues
Also, simply Google "new baby and pets" or "introducing pet to baby," etc.. Also go to the Library and ask the Librarian for info on introducing pet to new baby.
Note about relying on experts.  Just my opinion.  If somone gives advice that includes negative reinforcement or punishment or pain or fear, then I'd ignore that advice - no matter how much expertise that professional has.
i.e. never hit, yell, stare. Try not to use electric collars, electric fences


For anyone who says they want to give up their dog because they are pregnant or have a baby, show them these videos
There are many more - just Google babies and dogs or something like that.
One other thing I forgot to mention that is important when bringing in a baby - The dog will need to learn how not to jump up when excited and other proper mannners for help keep baby safe from injury.
Great Advice from a vet:
my favorite trick is to always reward the dog when you have the baby out- so the dog associates the baby with being petted, food, handling etc.  I sometines will recommend ignoring the dog when the baby is sleeping so the dog begins to associate very fond things with the baby.  I am not saying not to touch/pet/feed the dog when the baby is asleep- but reward the dog when the baby is present- the positive reinforment helps build the bond...
just an extra thought