By: Danielle Drewrey
Wildrose Trainer II
At Wildrose we strive to properly prepare our clients for the integration of their puppy to their current family lifestyle. The list of what to do and perhaps what not to do is rather extensive. Similarly let’s consider how to properly introduce a newborn or toddler to our canine pack. After attending the Wildrose puppy seminar, some say they feel more prepared to bring their puppy home than they were when they brought their newborn home. What about grandparents or friends expecting visitation from a newborn or a toddler, the same circumstances exist…an odd intrusion on your dog’s stable family pack. Expecting my own human “puppy” very soon, I reached out to other Wildrose pack members and gathered a list of ‘What To Do’s’ when introducing a baby to meet and coexist with our canine companion(s).
Bringing home a baby will not only rock your world but Fido’s as well. It is your responsibility to properly prepare Fido for the new addition. Your pack is growing and all members need to know their place in the pack order. Dogs thrive in an environment with structure, routine, stability and consistency, all of which will be rattled once the baby arrives.
The preparation of getting Fido ready for the baby to come home begins long before the baby arrives. Teaching Fido basic obedience will be the best giftyou can give yourself and your dog in the future months and years to come. A tip from Anna Swinney, Retail Manager of Wildrose Oxford is to carry around a baby doll a few weeks
before the baby comes home in order for Fido to get used to the new routine and presence of a smaller person. Something you might notice is Fido’s awareness of the pregnancy, this will aid in the transition of the new addition as well.
Skills like place, crate training, tie out and a proper exercise routine are going to be your saving grace. Place training is essential to avoid mishaps such as knocking the child over, retrieving the child’s toys or even steeling the pacifier. Establish a special place to feed the dog where the child has no access, in the unlikely event the dog becomes possessive of their food. Wildrose never recommends chew toys, but if the dog does have possessions or is given treats for dental care ensure the child has no opportunity to interfere. When traveling with the infant and the dog(s) as always, we recommend the
dog being secured to prevent the animal becoming a flying object in case of an impact. A harness attached to a seat belt or having the dog in a travel crate is always recommended, especially with a child on board.
For more information on obedience training, see our You Tube and Facebook training videos (search “Wildrose Kennels”) on the specifics of teaching your pup these skills. Consistency and routine are a huge factor that will help ease the transition for Fido once the baby arrives. For example, if you have been working Fido in the morning, continue working him in the morning once the baby arrives. Feeding and relief schedules should be maintained as always.
Now that you have equipped Fido with the necessary skills of obedience, you are ready for the baby to come. Once the newborn arrives the most common piece of advice new parents are given is to bring a blanket or hat home that the baby has been wearing so Fido can become familiar with the new scent.
Jen Magnusson of Blixt & Co., owner of four Wildrose labs, recently brought Baby Em home to her pack, and provided valuable tips about the experience:
The best way to integrate the newest pack member was to:
1st Bring a blanket home with the baby’s scent on it for all the pups in the home to become familiar with.
2nd One at a time, introduce the baby in a quiet setting to each dog in the home.
3rd Take a pack walk with the baby and all pack members living in the home.
4th After the walk, let each dog come over and sit with you and the baby.
During this process of introducing the newborn to the pack Jen notes that the most important skill to practice is for you (the handler and pack leader) to be relaxed and remain under control during the introduction. If you are stressed and nervous during the introductions, your pack members will be as well.
Jen has experienced that as the baby grows, she will learn to steer clear of wagging tails along with learning how to be gentle with the dogs. She explains, “The hardest part is that she is so comfortable with our dogs that I worry she will run into a dog that needs more space than she is accustomed to.”
The path to introducing a baby to the pack may be varied depending on your dog’s personality. Just remember YOU are the pack leader and it is your responsibility to set the tone of introducing the newest addition in the best way possible. Have a plan and remember Wildrose Law number 18, “Train, don’t test- If the fundamental skills are not present the dog will fail.”