"Expecting" couples, which have pets, may suddenly find themselves the
"victims" of poor advice, although well meaning, from friends and
relatives as a new human baby looms on the horizon. Usually the poor dog
is the loser and banished to the backyard like yesterday's garbage. What
can or should you do to ease the turmoil you are about to experience?
If you already have a child, you wouldn't deliberately shun them, creating a lonely, rejected child, would you? (Let’s hope not!) Just like a older, human sibling, pets need to be introduced to the idea of a baby in the house and the desensitization should start as soon as you know of the pregnancy.
Cute as they are babies have an odor of their own and sometimes they stink! They bring the smell of urine and feces into the house with all those diapers, diaper pails and leaking diaper accidents. Since you've already been through that housetraining routine with the dog, all these new "stinky" odors may have your dog thinking " Well, if he can do it, why not me?" You should think of introducing a faint urine smell occasionally. How to do that? With ammonia. Yes, good old household ammonia. Put some in the mop bucket and clean the kitchen floor, wait a day or two and then re-mop with clean, fresh water or with some alcohol to remove it. Or douse a rag with water diluted ammonia and wipe it on the dog's face every once in awhile. Be vigilant in making sure your dog's housetraining stays intact!
Once the baby arrives, have "Dad" take home some of the baby's clothes and rub the clothing all over the dog's head to "introduce" the new family member prior to the actual homecoming..
New baby sounds...gurgling, rattles, squeaks, etc...all these may be new and startling to your dog. You can get some rattles and baby toys a bit early and use them to desensitize the dog. Make sure you are NOT TEASING the dog with it! Just pick one up and rattle it while going about seemingly normal household chores.
If you have friends with babies, take a tape recorder over and get some real baby sounds, including screaming and crying, laughing and gurgling. As you would to desensitize them to loud noises, start by playing it low and increase the sound level over a couple of weeks.
What is that wiggling thing? Dogs with high prey drive or guarding instincts may alert on to small babies placed on the floor. Get yourself one of those dolls that simulate baby movements or crawling and place it on a pallet on the floor as you would a child. Stay close to the "baby" and correct inappropriate behavior in the dog. Do this often until you are sure the dog has grown accustomed to the sight and sounds. Remember, you have several months to let the dog adjust and to gauge his reactions.
Coming home with baby. Now it's time for the baby to appear on the scene. " Mom" has been at the hospital for a couple of days and "Dad" has been doing double duty both at the hospital and going home to care for the dog. Today is the day you go home. Who goes into the house first?
MOM! Without the baby - Dad can wait outside. The dog is going to be thrilled to see her, so rather than be bowled over by an enthusiastic dog when she steps in the door carrying Junior, she should greet and pet her "oldest child" first
With a bit of planning, using all these steps should help make the transition a bit easier on all concerned. Just like an older child, the caring of the baby can be done by including the pet, too, even if you are just using their name, "Okay, Kimba, let's feed the baby" or "Time to change the baby" or "Let's check on the baby". You'd be surprised to know how fast a dog picks up on his new important job!
Ridgebacks have a remarkable ability to understand the importance of all this and we have had the most wonderful reports of long and loving relationships between the "new kid" and the "oldest child".