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Friday, October 1, 2010

Fido Meets Baby: A Program to Prepare New Parents

by Carrie Boyko, CEB
Baby will Soon be on Level with Your Dog
Bringing home a new baby is one of the top reasons that dogs end up in shelters. Yet there is much a couple can do to prepare their pup, whether 10 lbs or 150. One trainer is taking up this challenge in the Orlando area by working with hospitals to offer a class for expectant parents with dogs. When I learned about this, my jaw dropped. What an obvious, unserved niche for dog trainers to focus on.

New parents have enough challenges, without having to figure out how to create a balance between baby and dog. Enter Mike Shamp and his program, Fido Meets the New Baby, currently offered through Florida Hospitals in central Florida. His class is presented monthly, helping couples prepare by offering education and tips to assist them with getting their dog through the transition. I was pleased to learn that his first topic is to explain the pack structure from the dog’s vantage point. So many owners struggle with their dog’s behaviors simply because they lack a basic understanding of how dogs view our families’ way of working.

Mike continues by acknowledging the challenges and stresses involved, and then helps couples establish a plan to prepare their dog for a new pack member, even before the baby arrives. By establishing new rules over time, these changes will not be interpreted as having association with the arrival of the new infant. This works to the family’s advantage, often making a significant difference in the dog’s acceptance and observance of his new rules.

While maintaining barriers of distance between baby and dog, the dog can still be given exposure to the new family member by scent, sight, introduction to baby’s ‘things’, and supervised visits that allow the dog to learn his limits with the baby. 

Parents are encouraged to assure the dog that all is normal by maintaining a strong leadership role and continuing regular exercise and attention to the dog, as well as the infant. It is important not to banish and ignore the pup, when baby enters the scene.

If you, or someone you know, is preparing to bring home a new family member, this class or something similar to that offered by Mike, with Bark Busters USA, is a great way to prepare for a happy transition for both family and Fido. I encourage you to seek professional help--especially if you have a large or dominant dog--long before your infant is due to come home. How do you know if your dog is dominant? That's for your training professional to decide. 

Join me again soon when I continue with this topic in more depth, sharing some tips and techniques both from my own repertoire and from Mike's. Thanks to Bark Busters USA for being a great resource on this topic.

Want to read more? Try one of these books, and don't miss my interview with a new mom, linked just below the books:

Related Reading: Dogs and Babies. An Interview with a New Mom

Today is giveaway day for our Music to Calm Your Canine Companion. Want to know who won? Check in with Oliver, our prize manager, at 5 Minutes for Fido. He's making the announcement over there on his own blog!

Did you miss the announcement for next Friday's prize package? Check out yesterday's post, where we showed you one more way to help your kids and dogs bond.

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Nature by Dawn said...

What a great idea!!! I will keep this in mind.

Carrie, with Tanner and Oliver said...

I agree. So many families give up their dogs after an infant arrives. I'd love to see more of this at many hospitals.

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