How to train your dog for your baby’s arrival
“Sit, stay, come, heel, roll over” are just a few of the commands you often hear owners barking (bad pun) to their dogs. One command you don’t often hear is “Don’t jump on the baby”. If you’re a dog lover, then you know better than anyone that our furry friends can often be the proverbial “bull in the china shop” and needless to say, can become very excited. We have a German pointer/ blue tick coonhound mix. His name is Luther. He’s alright I guess, but mostly he’s a menace and we love him all the same. We brought Luther home over 4 years ago after rescuing him from a shelter. We had no idea that this hyperactive puppy (one year old at the time) could be the same hyperactive get-out-of-my-way dog 4 years later. We could handle him and got used to him very quickly, but anytime company came by we had to constantly be apologizing for him jumping up, stealing food or eyeglasses (that actually happened) and bulldozing his way through oncoming traffic. With twins on the way we knew we either had to get rid of him (which we obviously couldn’t do) or train him for the arrival of our little guys. We brainstormed and my wife came up with this brilliant idea.
She stopped in at the local recycling center and picked up two dolls, one cabbage patch and the other some form of Dora The Explorer. The next step, though it was going to take us quite a long time, was actually quite simple. Much like teaching any dog a new trick, it would take repetition, consistency between owners and treats. Lots of treats. I’m sure you can tell where this is going, but I’ll break it down for you anyway.
Step 1: Buy a doll
Value Village or Craigslist is a great place to start. We picked up two, cause, you know, twins. When you get your doll also pick up some form of soft baby blanket to wrap the doll in. This will be a great way to practice your swaddling at the same time.
Step 2: Doll placement
Get in the habit of carrying the doll around and placing it in places where you spend a lot of time. Laying the doll on the couch or your bed are great places to start. Once your furry friend becomes used to seeing the doll around, try placing the doll’s blanket on the floor and laying the doll on top of it.
Step 3: Interacting with your dog
It’s important that whenever your dog approaches, sniffs or “kisses” the doll that it’s on your terms. What I used to do every day when I came home from work was come in, kiss my wife and walk straight over to the dolls. I’d proceed to pick them up (slowly, like a baby) and cradle them in my arms. Side note: Do not yet acknowledge your dog. Do not look at them, speak to them or pet them. They need to know that when you get home, the babies are priority number one! So back to what I was saying, I’d cradle the dolls then walk around the house with them looking at them and only motioning to them. It’s at this point that I would acknowledge Luther by saying, “Hi Luther, do you want to see the babies?” I’d ask him to sit, which would excite him because he knew something was coming and then I would kneel down slowly and repeat the words, “be nice Luther, be nice”. “Be nice” was something my wife taught Luther early on to stop him from pawing at us and instantly give kisses if he was getting too rough. With the “be nice” command he would lean his head in slowly and give kisses to the dolls.
Step 4: Leave the room
After a while, Luther became used to our new routine. Keep in mind, I wasn’t spending my entire evening cuddling these dolls, I’d only do this for 5 minutes or so as soon as I got home. After some time had passed I would leave the dolls on the couch, leave the room and look from afar to see what Luther did. Every time he would walk over, stick his head in slowly, give them a sniff and then walk away. We knew it was working. One of us would run out praising him and toss a treat his way. Catch him doing something good. This is key!
Step 5: Ditch the fake blankets
This is the final and most important step. At some point between your child’s birth and bringing your new baby home, you’ll need to snag one of the hospital blankets that your newborn was wrapped in and bring it home to wrap the doll in. Trust me, I know it sounds crazier than it actually is. Having the doll wrapped in the blanket, even for a short amount of time, will help them become familiar with the new smell and when your little bundle of joy comes home for the first time, your dog would have already made himself familiar with the scent.
There you have it. Five simple steps to train your dog for a new baby coming home. We started training Luther close to the 6 or 7-month mark. It didn’t take a long time for him to fall in line but again, you need to be consistent. Like I said earlier, you don’t have to do this for long periods of time. Ultimately you know your dog best, so continue the process until you feel confident that your pup will be able to follow the rules. Good luck, and if you need any help, be sure to drop me a line!
Until next time…
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