It can be daunting to coach others how to achieve a smooth transition for the dog in the house to a home with a baby, especially if you haven’t personally experienced it. It is more than encouraging the owner to bring home the baby blanket from the hospital for the dog to sniff.
What Do You Cover?
As a trainer you already have more tools in your pocket to work with the parents than you might realize. When working with expectant parents that seek you out, often they are first time parents. They are being proactive in preparing their dog and home for the new addition. A lot of the preparation is looking to see where management will be effective, refreshing basic behaviors and dealing with the bad habits, understanding the level of exposure & socialization the dog has had to infants, babies & toddlers and recognizing stress signals in the dog and educating the owner about them.
Programs That Help
If you are a trainer that has had little experience with the different developmental stages of babies it is important to become familiar with them. There is a large difference between the infant and the baby that crawls. There are some excellent resources out there to help you as a trainer with this. Family Paws Parent Education has an abundance of information for parents and a program available to you as a trainer, Dogs & Storks, preparing families with dogs that are expecting a baby, and Dogs & Toddlers which prepares dogs for a life with a toddler.
Collene Pellar has a great book available called Living with Kids and Dogs. It is about managing kid and dog interactions from birth until young adults. This can apply to a family with a new baby in it or even the home that only has visiting children like nieces and nephews. She also has a book available specifically for people who work with dogs.
Management is Essential
Starting a dogs and babies program is all about setting the dog and family up for success, as is most of our training. Encourage them to think about how their lifestyle is going to change. It is important to impress upon them that the dog should have its own safe place away from the baby and the possible chaos. Bring back the crates, dog beds, or pens and refresh going to place. While children are a blessing and the baby becomes the number 1 in the family, it is important to remind them to advocate for the dog. The dog shouldn’t have to tolerate or be subjected to tail and ear tugs, being climbed over and having toys constantly snatched away from him.
It is rewarding to work with expectant parents especially during their pregnancy. They are being proactive and diligent about preparing their dog for the change. They will likely be some of your most compliant clients. Encourage them to expose their dog early to all the changes coming, the new equipment, noises, strollers and car seats. The programs can work as a group settings without the dog or as private sessions.
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