Carry a Doll!

by Jennifer Shryock

If you are preparing for adoption or you are pregnant chances are you have looked into all sorts of tips and suggestions on how to make this a smooth and positive transition for your current baby, your dog. it seems that there is a great deal of information out there that points to the same exercise -- carry a doll!

Yes, that's right. A doll. it is the one thing that is consistent in your search for parenting advice and how to prepare. So, what will carrying a doll around do to help prepare your canine baby, you ask. Good question and here are just a few of the reasons why this is a valuable exercise.

  1. Posture: When you are holding a baby your posture will change. Posture is a key factor in communication with our dogs. You need to be able to give commands to your dog while holding the baby doll. Practice sitting, walking and lying down with the doll. Notice if there is a change in effectiveness in the different positions.

  2. No hands! You will have your hands full a great deal more. It is important that you can interact with your dog in a hands free manner when giving commands (except for hand signals). How does your dog behave while holding the doll on the couch? Sitting on the floor?

  3. Practice using your baby carrier of choice with your baby doll. Slings and any baby carrier will change your body shape. Some dogs may react to this extension of their human. any postural change in the familiar human form may cause concern, stress or excitability with some dogs. Some do not care but it is important that you know before you have the baby.

The baby doll gives you something to go through the motions with in a controlled and positive relaxed manner. Teaching your dog how to behave around you while holding a baby is important and best done when relaxed. If you wait until the baby arrives then you may be impatient and respond sharply which can create a negative association with the baby.

Putting the baby doll in the baby equipment gives you a visualization of situations that will happen in months ahead. For example: When you put the doll in the baby swing, does your dog bark when it swings? Nip at the dolls feet? Now is the time to teach your dog how you would like him to behave when the baby is swinging.

To accustom your dog to baby's smell, I suggest using a dab of a lotion or oil you are considering using with the baby. You can put several drops on the baby equipment and items. I also recommend that you use a high value treat when introducing this scent. High value treats are things such as hot dog, cheese, liver treats, chicken. Plain kibble is usually not considered high value. I suggest something extra yummy that you will use consistently in association with the baby items and baby. This treat is only for exercises that relate to the baby doll and baby. The consistency of scent and positive association is a good combination.

These are just some of the neat things that you can do to help get your dog prepared. Most dogs do very well with new arrivals. Active preparation helps parents to feel confident and in control when the day comes to bring the new family member home. This confidence and calm control is the key to the success of a truly wonderful beginning.

Jennifer Shryock, creator of Dogs & Storks™ CD, is a stay-at-home mom and a certified dog behavior consultant, specializing in safe Kid and K9 interaction. Believing the relationship between dogs and their family is precious, Jennifer created Family Paws to offer opportunities to families that will help enhance their relationship with their dog. She provides positive training techniques to help promote safety and fun between kids and their family dog through Family Paws -- offering a wide variety of services ranging from basic doggie manners to complicated behavioral solutions.

Jennifer is a certified and founding member of IADBC, Inc. and maintains professional memberships with APDT. She is enrolled in a Diploma program of Canine Behavior Theory at Cynology College and has been an advisor at Doggie Door forums for three years in the areas of Dogs and Kids and Cat and Dog.

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