Welcome to the 3rd installment of 3 Dogs and a Baby. In addition to all the training commands from part 2 (if you haven’t go back and read it now!), we did a few additional things to get the dogs ready for the arrival of their furless baby brother.
STAYING POISED WITH NOISE
Our dogs are extremely sensitive to noise. They UPS guy walking up the sidewalk will send them racing to the door and the sound of a crinkling bag will send them running into the room. Sometimes the noise would lead to barking (danger!) or general excitement (visitors, treats!). Big dogs + exuberance = baby getting knocked over.
To get them acclimated to life with a baby, we started desensitizing their sources of excitement. We would ring the doorbell or knock on the front door while the dogs practiced staying in place instead of scrambling to the door. Our preferred method is using the Good Dog Training method but as we talked about in Part 2 but choose whatever program works for you.
They began getting fed at a designated time (first thing in the morning) and in a designated place (their crates) so there would not be excitement around food/treats. There were no more treats for good behavior or just because they gave sad puppy dog eyes. The key to reducing excitement is consistency. Dogs crave routine and structure. Lack of consistency leads to anxious and excited behavior.
We played YouTube clips of babies crying, laughing, yelling, etc to get the dogs used to baby noises. Chloe (who had birthed a litter or two of puppies) was extremely concerned by the crying. Her ears would twitch and a little furrow would form on her brow as she tilted her head toward the noise. Denver and Benji didn’t know what to make of the strange sounds and would cautiously sniff the phone or TV when the videos were playing.
If they stayed calm during this time, we gave them a lot of pets and affection. If they were struggling with too much excitement, we would put them in place or the crate until they calmed down. This teaches them that they have a safe place to go when they are feeling out of sorts.
We love a good snuggle with a dog (or two or three…). But we needed to teach the dogs boundaries when it came to places like the couch or bed. They all had a bad habit of forgetting they were no longer puppies and trying to climb into your lap. All 50+ pounds of them. This, of course, is problematic when you have a tiny newborn in your arms.
This is another reason that training plays such an important role. The dogs need to respect and listen to commands. If they are placed in “down” or “place,” they do not get to move out of position until released. If the baby was on the couch in the Boppy or Dock-A-Tot, my wife or I would sit between the baby and the dog(s). We “claimed” the baby and his space. They were never left unattended but we never had any issues with the dogs trying to sit on the baby.
Our bed became off limits. The dogs had previously been crate trained but we weren’t consistent with it and would frequently allow one or more dogs to sleep in our bed. This would lead to whining if someone was left in their crate at night or even an attempt at escaping upstairs before bedtime. Now when it is time for bed, they all head for their crates.
WELCOME HOME, BABY
We were lucky that my wife’s sister was able to care for the dogs while we were in the hospital. She is also a pitbull mom and our dogs love and trust her immensely. Prior to bringing the baby home, my sister-in-law brought back a blanket that the baby had been swaddled in. The dogs each got a chance to thoroughly sniff the blanket over the next few days.
It was a sunny July morning when we brought the baby home. My wife stayed with the baby in his car seat in our yard and I brought the dogs out one by one to meet baby Harry. They had all their training tools on (prong collar with leash and e-collar).
It’s important that they meet one-on-one since they can get into that pack mentality and can ramp each other up. And they can be feeling fear, excitement, etc from the other dog(s) that they would not feel in a one-on-one situation. All our dogs act differently when they are alone than when they are with one or more of the other dogs.
Denver fell in love with baby Harry immediately and made it his life’s mission to make sure he had the cleanest face on the block. Chloe gave him a couple sniffs and then mostly ignored him. Benji was perplexed by this small human and was very cautious around him.
You know your dog best and should behave according to their body language. Because Benji was initially cautious around Harry, we gave him space. Denver has had food guarding issues in the past, so we always feed the dogs in their crates and the baby is never in their vicinity when they are eating.
Never, ever leave your baby unattended with a dog. Just like humans, it takes time for dogs to get acclimated to change. If destructive or anxious behaviors emerge, seek help from a professional trainer.
TO BE CONTINUED
As of this post, Harry is now 14 months old and absolutely adores all his dogs. Chloe is sweet and lazy, letting Harry pet her as she snoozes on the couch. Denver is loving to a fault and will never pass up an opportunity to give Harry kisses. Even Benji has come around and become his goofy sidekick.
We’ll continue this series with 3 Dogs and a Toddler and talk about tips for living with dogs once your little baby becomes mobile. Unitl next time, furriends!