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Dogs & Storks: Preparing your k9 baby for your new arrival
By Jennifer Shryock

Pregnancy is an amazing time for all family members. There are many new experiences and emotions that will be shared and experienced. All too often our canine family members are not included. Many families believe it best that they re-home their dog due to the changes and not knowing how to manage it all. Many families have concerns about safety. It is rare that a dog can not stay safely in its current home after the arrival of a baby. 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 to providing a safe and comfortable environment for all.

It is strongly recommended that you attend an obedience class regardless of the age of the dog. Obedience encourages bonding, self control and mental stimulation. Shop around and find a program that fits your goals and needs. I recommend you start by gathering information about dog trainers in your area. A helpful website is by The Association of Pet Dog Trainers. Here you will obtain much information and will know a bit more of what to look for in regards to a training and manners program. There are many wonderful trainers. Take your time and select the one that listens and understands your family goals.

Leadership is essential to our canine companions. It is important that your dog knows he can trust you to be the "leader." Dogs are pack animals. When you bring a dog into your family you become their pack. The leader of the pack communicates a sense of safety and trust that makes 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 or the dog may decide to take charge himself. Many times confusion about leadership roles can lead to undesirable behavior and sometimes injury. Here are examples of leadership behaviors.

Leaders:

  1. Eat first
  2. Enter and exit first.
  3. Lead when on a walk
  4. Decide when to give and receive attention and how.
  5. Control play time.
  6. Demonstrate overall confidence in expectations.
  7. After being away, calmly return to the pack without a fuss or huge greeting celebration.

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 canine behavior consultant or trainer prior to the arrival of your baby. If you have experienced aggressive behavior with your dog please consult your vet. You may need to seek the help of a behaviorist in your area. Your vet can help guide you in the right direction. Many dogs respond extremely well with obedience and leadership well established. There may still be times however that management is necessary for all.

Management may still be necessary with your dog. There will be many visitors and lots of commotion during the time of the baby's birth. If you have a dog that is fearful of guests and you have people over, you may choose to "manage" the situation and remove the dog to a quiet secure space where he feels safe. Setting our dogs up for success is key. Allowing them to practice a negative behavior is only reinforcing that behavior. 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 creating a safe place for your dog. Provide a yummy treat for them to enjoy. Stuffing a toy with peanut butter and kibble is one idea. There are many ways to make this a positive haven for your dog.

It has been our experience that with leadership, obedience and management when needed, canine 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!

Contributed by Jennifer Shryock of Family Paws. Family Paws encourages you to never leave an infant or child unsupervised.

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