Your dog is currently your baby, but what is she going to do when you have a human baby? There are positive steps you can take to make this a happy occasion for her; if it isn't, may dogs end up in shelters. We don't want that to happen.
Most dogs get very jealous of new dogs and new babies. We'll cover new dogs another time, but let's deal with the new baby today.
Dogs are very territorial, in case you haven't noticed. You may have a Golden or a Labrador Retriever, or a Standard Poodle, but even they can get possessive, and it's always a good idea to prepare them for the coming 'foreigner' in your home.
If you haven't chosen your dog yet, then you may want to consider a Lab, Golden, or Standard Poodle, or one of the other notably easy-going breeds like the Beagle, Newfoundland, Pug, or Bulldog. If you have one of these breeds, your dog may give you a head start by having a less jealous nature, but don't take any dog for granted; they will still need baby training.
Training a dog takes time and patience, if you've never done it before. Most professional trainers advise that you never get angry with your dog. You can be loving and firm at the same time.
Here are 5 basic steps you need to ready your dog for the new arrival; start implementing them as soon as you learn you are pregnant. You'll be doing a lot of training; just remember your dog is a good dog and should be rewarded with treats and lots of enthusiasm from you during all of his training.
1. Re-TrainYour Dog
If it's been awhile since your dog has had training, he's probably the one in command now and has wound you right around his front right paw. You need to change that dynamic. Even if your dog has been trained by a professional when he was young, train him again. Focus on all the basics: sit, stay, come, down, off. Train him as you're doing other activities like going for a walk or at play in the park.
Treat. Treat every time your dog performs appropriately. As he's excelled in one activity, you can wind down to intermittent treats. Change his treats periodically; you will be training and rewarding for a few years, so make the goodies good!
Once the basics are re-learned and reinforced and your dog recognizes you as the gentle person in command, start introducing baby items to your pup.
2. Rehearse With A Doll
Clothe an infant-size doll and wrap the doll in a real baby blanket, hopefully items your baby will use or wear. Don't give this doll to your dog. This is yours; your dog should never play with this doll or its clothing as if they were his toys.
Carry around your doll and sit down with the doll in your arms, just like you will be doing with your real baby. Go as far as you can in imitating a real life situation with your doll, even as far as preparing formula. It's odors your dog will remember. Start using baby powder, lotions, wipes, even on yourself, so your dog will recognize some of the smells of a new baby.
When your dog becomes curious about your doll, allow her to sniff the lower portion of the blanket near the doll's feet. After a short sniff, remove the doll gently, and tell your dog he's a good boy. Treat. Teach him to sniff when you say it's okay, not on his own. If he gets up on a couch to sniff the doll, tell him 'off', commanding him to get down. When he gets off, 'Good boy.' Treat.
Introduce baby sounds to your house. You can download an app of baby sounds like crying, cooing, and laughing to your phone or pad and play them for your pup.
Bring home some little toys for your new baby. A few rattles maybe. A ceiling mobile. Put them on the floor and let your dog sniff the items, but don't allow him to pick them up. "No, Lucky." Treat. Give him one of his own toys, and when he takes it, "Good boy, Lucky." Treat. Repeat and repeat. Your dog learned not to play with your 'toys;' he can learn not to pick up baby's toys.
Do things just like you will do them when you have your baby, and you will already have Lucky trained.
3. Permission To Enter The Nursery
Dogs can frighten your infant, even if they're very gentle. They need supervision to enter the nursery. (via)
Your dog should not have open access to the nursery. Again, as soon as possible, start limiting access to that room or area of your house to your dog. Let your dog sniff and examine new items until they enter the nursery; then, it's paws off.
Train your dog to stay out of the nursery. Let him lie 'Down' at the entrance, and then 'Stay.' Treat when you release him from his stay. Praise him happily. Once in awhile, you can let him in. Say 'okay, come.' Treat. 'Go out, Lucky. Good Boy.' Treat.
You will need to plan your training times, make 15 - 20 minute sessions each day. At other times, the nursery door should be closed. By this time your dog is accustomed to training. Hopefully, you and she are enjoying your training sessions, and she should be responsive to even more training. (Time for a treat upgrade!)
Once the baby comes, you can choose the times when your dog will be permitted to enter the nursery, but she should not be encouraged to smell the baby except for near the baby's feet. Never allow your dog near your infant's face: 1) there are health reasons, and 2) she might frighten the baby! (Be aware that your dog will be naturally drawn to your baby's face as it will have attractive food smells!)
4. Schedule Special Time With Your Dog
Once the baby arrives, your dog is going to feel somewhat abandoned and, if this happens, it will make her more jealous of the baby.
Even before the baby arrives, schedule special times for training, walks, and play with your dog and stick to them. At other times, busy yourself with other things. You may not be able to stick to the same schedule once the baby is born, but your dog will learn that she will get special attention. The personal attention you give your dog when you are not with the baby will be very important to her. Additionally, if you give her a lot of exercise, she will get tired.
5. Act Like An Infant With Your Dog
As your infant grows and starts crawling and walking, you need to be around at all times monitoring your baby's moves. This is impossible; trust me. Your dog, who is naturally curious about crawlers and little people, will be right there following baby just to challenge your speed and agility. And your pup will get poked, grabbed, socked in the face, and screamed at by your baby and you will only be able to stop this about one in three times. And when you're not, you'll be lucky if your dog doesn't snap at your baby. Don't get too made; it's only natural.
The ASPCA has a great training tip for this: called "Poke the Pup." Prepare your dog by acting like an infant with him. Pull his fur, just a little. If he begins to snap at you, say "No." If he doesn't snap when you pull fur, his tail, his mustache... give him a treat and tell him what a good boy he is. Walk closely in front of him, brushing his fur. Go behind him while he's eating. Crawl by if you can. Whenever he doesn't perform his instinctive behavior, lavish praise and treat. "Poke" him, or just annoy him in any way an infant might, to accustom him to the callous treatment your baby will dish out. Reward and praise whenever your dog doesn't take the bait.
6. Train Your Baby To Respect Your Dog
The word "no" is one of the first words your baby learns. By the time they are crawling, babies understand it. That doesn't mean they stop doing what they're not supposed to do. But rewards are there too for the child who obeys. "Good girl!" Lots of smiles and hugs are appropriate when baby obeys.
Keep baby's toys and dog toys separate; dog can't play with baby's toys and baby can't play with dog's toys.
Dogs play with their own toys while Mom plays with baby. (via)
It may be a few years, depending on how well your child and dog learn to respect each other, before you can leave them alone with each other. A dog kennel kept in the nursery or wherever you play with your infant will help your dog feel like she's part of the family without getting in between you and your child at play.
Don't give up on your dog. If you need a professional trainer to help you, don't hesitate to find one in your area. It is well worth the cost to make your dog feel just as appreciated as he was before your baby arrived. Dogs need to feel needed as well as loved and you can achieve both!
Sources: ASPCA, The Nest, PetMed