Now is a good time to re-establish the bond between you and your dog, well before the baby’s arrival. Bonding isn’t all cuddling on the couch. Instead, think in terms of gaining your dog’s respect and attention through commands and high-quality interaction. Too many couples give up their pets in advance of a baby’s arrival, because of fear of the unknown. Part two of this post gives tips on getting control so you can stay sane, and your dog can remain an intregal part of the family unit.
1. Who’s training who?- Dogs are master manipulators. Think about the signals your dog gives you every day. For example, when you are sitting on the couch resting that sore back of yours, and your dog comes and pokes his head into your hand, do you automatically pet him? Don’t fall into the trap of your dog training you. This single thing can take away much of the respect you’ve earned. Instead, when your dog comes over and demands attention with the head-poke, ignore him (no matter how cute it is,) and say, “Go lie down”. Don’t touch him or look his way. Once he gives up and goes away, (often with a big, dramatic sigh,) wait a few minutes and call him to you. Ask your dog to sit and then pet him briefly. Now you have his respect and his attention, on your terms. Your dog gets what he wants, but not if he’s pushy.
2. Let’s go see the baby! Once the baby arrives, you’ll have lots of visits from family and friends. Show your dog an alternative to jumping up on your houseguests by rehearsing good behavior at the front door now, before the baby arrives and your doorbell is ringing nonstop. Go to the entry in your house with your dog. Grab some treats and ask him to sit, then encourage him to “Watch” by showing him a treat in your hand, then bring that hand up and point to your nose. When he looks up at you, praise him and give him the treat. Now that he’s interested, knock on the door from the inside. Let him bark a couple of times, then show him the treat and say, “Watch”. Praise him again when he looks and is quiet. When you and your dog become proficient at this, add the Sit command after Watch. You are rehearsing an alternative to his usual over-the-top reaction to doorbells and guests, by re-directing his attention back to you. Now you are ready to ask an understanding neighbor or friend to help you with the real thing. If he is polite, he can say Hello. Re-direct him back to you when he’s too exuberant.
3. Open door policy: Avoid shutting out the dog when you are working with the baby. Pushing him away when you are busy with the baby only worries the dog and he may think the baby is to blame for his lack of attention. Allow your dog to follow you into the baby’s room or poke his nose in the tub at bath time. Many dogs have alerted parents to the baby’s needs due to their superior hearing and noses. Your dog provides you with a built-in alarm system, letting you know when someone is at the door or a family member is coming home from work or school.
Assert your leadership now so the dog will respect your wishes after the baby is born. Your dog is an excellent reader of body language, so be confident and upbeat. Show him what you want and praise him for good behavior. Your dog will reward you with love and loyalty, and your child will know the joy of growing up in a home with a cold-nosed companion. The benefits of keeping your family dog at home far outweigh the temporary relief and potential guilt of giving him up to an uncertain future.