by Mike Wombacher
You're pregnant and your "pack" will soon be growing. If you're like most people, you're caught between anticipation and trepidation. You're thrilled about the arrival of your new child and you're concerned about doing everything right. If you own a dog, certainly some of your concern revolves around him. You're probably asking yourself:
And most importantly:
If you're not concerned, you should be. Approximately 80% of dog bites happen to children under five.
I have recently written a book entitled, There's a Baby in the House: Preparing your Dog for the Arrival of your Child, which helps you find your way through these concerns, answer important questions, and set the stage for a warm and mutually beneficial relationship between your dog and your new child.
The flow of the book follows the steps an owner should take in order to assess their dog, build a solid relationship, eliminate any potential behavior problems long before the child arrives and ensure a smooth transition after baby appears. Too many families, failing to consider the dramatic implications that the arrival of a child has for a dog, overlook this important issue and end up re-homing their dog within three months of their child's arrival. It's a tragedy that in most cases is entirely avoidable.
If you're an expecting dog owner the very first thing that you should do is to identify the changes that need to be made in the life of your dog once the baby arrives and implement them NOW! You do not want your dog to associate any changes that need to be made in your relationship with the arrival of your child thus setting up a competitive or jealous dynamic.
Once your baby arrives you'll have precious little time or energy for dealing with any errant behavior on the part of your dog. All your attention will be on your baby where it should be. Failing to implement relevant changes in the life of your dog prior to baby's arrival is the single most common mistake expecting dog owners make.
Things that you do not consider problematic now might become problematic with a child in your midst. So take a careful look: is your dog sleeping in bed with you, pushy and demanding, barky, prone to steal things and get into mischief when you're not looking? If so, better deal with it now. Does he get tense when you try to take things away from him, touch him in certain ways, or get near his food? Does he pull on the leash, crash out the door or jump up on you to say hello? Again, you might tolerate such behaviors now but they will seriously compromise the quality of your life with a baby in tow. Such issues are relatively easy to deal with and in the book I have outlined simple steps to enable you to resolve them.
More serious problems include over-protectiveness, separation anxiety (yes, your dog will need to learn to spend time alone and not as the center of your undivided attention once your baby arrives -- no small feat for many dogs), and sensitivity to sudden and unpredictable movements.