by Jennifer Shryock
Preparing your dog before the birth or adoption of a child
Anticipating the arrival of a new family member is an amazing time for all family members. There are many new and exciting emotions that will be shared and experienced. All too often our furry companions are not included. Many families believe it best that they re-home their dog or cat due to the changes and not knowing how to manage it all. Concerns range from safety issues to lack of time. Good News! There are many proactive steps that can be taken ahead of time to help things go smoothly. Obedience, leadership as well as management are all essential keys to providing a safe and comfortable environment for all.
I strongly recommended that you attend an obedience class regardless of the age of the dog. Obedience encourages bonding, self control and mental stimulation. Most dogs love jobs that compliment their physical and mental needs. The more commands they know the more mental stimulation they get! Shop around and find a program that fits your goals and needs. A helpful website is The Association of Pet Dog Trainers. Here you will obtain helpful information in your search for a dog trainer. If your dog has behavioral issues then please visit The International Association of Dog Behavior Consultants. Take your time in choosing the right person to work with your family companion.
Leadership is essential to our canine companions. It is important that your dog knows he can trust you to be the "leader." In times of stress or uncertainty a dog that defers to you is getting effective leadership. The leaders communicate a sense of safety and trust that make it clear to the dog that things are under control. It is important that the dog knows that his leader is capable of handling this role. If this is not clear a dog may decide to take charge himself. Many times confusion about leadership roles can lead to undesirable behavior and sometimes injury.
Leaders calmly control the resources the dogs need, crave and enjoy. Here are some examples for leadership opportunities:
• You choose when, where and what your dog/s will eat. Ignore demands to be fed such as whining, pawing, barking and the "dinner dance." Require your dog sit, down, wait or do several known commands before giving the release command to eat.
• Have your dog/s sit and wait for a release command before entering or exiting your home. This is great practice for when your hands are full and you have a toddler to watch for. It is also a great safety rule for your dog!
• Having your dog walk close vs. ahead of you allows you to monitor the environment and keeps your dog where you want him in case of a passer by, loose dog, running child or any other potential situation. Controlling the pace and direction of the walk puts you in the lead.
• Ignore demanding behavior for your attention such as pawing, nudging, and whining. Instead look or turn away from your dog until he moves onto something else. Then call him over, have him sit and then give attention. You initiate vs. your dog.
• Keep playtime fun but under control. Your ability to regain your dogs attention when excited is very important and a great demonstration of leadership. You begin play and end play.
• Demonstrate overall confidence in expectations. For example, say command one time and expect your dog to SIT the first time!
• After being away, calmly return without a fuss or huge greeting celebration. Calm reuniting is important as leaders come and go as they please.
If you are having issues with your dog you may want to consider how leadership is represented in your home. This combined with obedience can lead to a successful and harmonious relationship. If you feel that you may be having issues regarding leadership in your home, I suggest you contact a dog behavior consultant or trainer prior to the arrival of your baby. If you have experienced aggressive behavior with your dog please consult your vet first to rule out any medical considerations. You may need to seek the help of a behaviorist in your area. Many dogs respond extremely well with obedience and leadership well established. There may still be times however that management is necessary for all.
Management sometimes is the best option during hectic and stressful times. There will be many visitors and lots of commotion during the time of the baby's arrival... If you have a dog that is fearful of guests plan ahead for the many guests that will visit once the baby arrives. You may choose to "manage" the situation and provide your dog with a quiet secure space where he feels safe. Get your dog used to this space well ahead of time. Establishing this ahead of time sets your dog up for a positive and successful situation. There are times that crating and removing the dog may be temporarily a better solution instead of risking a negative consequence or a chance to practice unwanted behavior. If you choose to crate the dog please keep in mind that this is not punishment. It is allowing a safe place for your dog. Reinforce this by providing a special treat for them each time they are in their crate. Stuffing a toy with peanut butter and kibble is one idea. There are many ways to make this a positive and welcoming den for your dog.
It has been our experience that with leadership, obedience and management, dog family members welcome the arrival of a baby with wagging tails! After all, their leaders are happy so they should be too! Congratulations and enjoy!
Family Paws encourages you to never leave an infant or child unsupervised with a dog or puppy! Even good dogs have tolerance limits. Expecting a child and dog to "work it out" is not realistic and can be extremely dangerous! Always be aware of the interaction between your child and any dog. Any dog no matter their breed, color, size, age and past experiences can lead to an amazingly great outcome or potentially dangerous outcome. Your involvement and instincts play an important role!
About the author: Jennifer Shryock, creator of Dogs & Storks™ CD, is a stay-at-home mom and a certified dog behavior consultant. She enjoys each and every opportunity to reach out to new moms as a support in their early days of Motherhood. She has been a member of Nursing Mother's Advisory Council (NMAC) and counseled nursing Moms for over six years. 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.
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. You can contact Jennifer by e-mail.
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