Dogs and babies can co-exist

Prepare your dog for the new arrival of a baby to ensure both the dog and the baby are safe.
Prepare your dog for the new arrival of a baby to ensure both the dog and the baby are safe. Contributed

DOGS might be man's best friend but what about baby's? The introduction of a new member of the family can have just as much effect on the family pet as it does on other siblings.

Just as you baby-proof the house before their arrival, you need to baby-proof the dog to ensure both baby and pet can co-exist in harmony.

Sunshine Coast dog trainers Alisa Voss, from DogTech, and Melissa Bruce, from Clever Paws, both stress the importance of preparing the dog for the arrival as well as educating the parents.

Alisa said new parents tended to shut the dog outside when the baby came home.

But that was the worst thing you could do, she said.

"The dog will get very jealous," she said.

And it's the jealousy that can lead to dogs becoming territorial and cause them to snap.

She said the majority of dog bites occurred when the dog became jealous and started to guard their toys and food and anything they saw as theirs. If the child touched one of these items, the dog could growl and show territorial symptoms.

Her advice was to let the dog smell some of the baby's clothing so they could get used to the scent and take them into the baby's room so they could see the baby belonged.

"They need to understand the baby belongs in the house," Alisa said.

Melissa added that it was also important the dog's lifestyle did not change too dramatically after the arrival of the baby.

The dog would automatically move down a level of the pack and too many changes would upset them and cause them to act up.

She recommended if you always walked the dog before the baby came along that you continue to walk the dog afterwards.

As well as teaching the dog to be good around a baby, Alisa said parents needed to educate children how to interact with dogs, particularly strange dogs.

She stressed the importance of always asking an owner if they could pat the dog.

"You should always ask, even if it looks friendly," Alisa said.

"We also teach where to pat.

"There are parts of the dog you shouldn't pat, in particular the top of the head and the back of the neck. These are pressure points and can hurt the dog."

Both trainers agreed there was no such thing as a naughty dog.

"Most of the problems come from us," Alisa said. "We tend to humanise them. We say they think that they are humans but actually they think we are dogs. We have it the wrong way around."

Just like children, dogs need rules and boundaries to thrive.

If owners don't enforce this, the dog will become the leader of the pack which can be quite stressful for the dog as they feel they have to be constantly on guard to protect the pack.

"The worst thing we can do is bring them up as kids," Melissa said.

"We need to remember they are dogs and treat them like dogs.

"Dogs are awesome but they think differently."

"Naughty" behaviour such as barking or digging or separation anxiety are generally all caused by the dog's owner.

You may love your dog and want to spend as much time as possible with them but Melissa said this could be counterproductive.

"The dog needs time to itself," she said.

"If you have them with you all the time and then you leave, the dog is not going to cope with the change. You can never have a bad dog: just a confused dog and a confused owner."

And despite the saying, the trainers agree you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Topics:  babies dogs parenting

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