Newborn baby Susie is lying in her car seat on the floor when her mom and dad’s Shepherd cross, Buddy, comes ambling across the kitchen floor to investigate. Buddy has always been good with kids and is well socialized, so mom and dad are not too concerned. Buddy thrusts his nose into the car seat to sniff Susie, startling the baby who lets out a high pitched cry and jerks suddenly. Buddy is startled, and jumps back, letting out a sharp bark, and a growl, which surprises his owners. Looks like they will have to rethink letting Buddy have unrestricted access to the new baby, and invest some time in teaching him to stay away from the baby until she is old enough to interact positively with him.
When you introduce a new baby to your home, your dog is in for a big adjustment in their lifestyle and the amount of attention they get. This can be upsetting to your dog. Not only can the introduction of a new baby upset your dog’s schedule, but a baby makes noise and sudden jerky movements, or grabs reflexively, which can be upsetting to your dog and may cause an aggressive response due to fear or alarm, putting your child in danger. Other concerns that can arise from having your baby and dog in close contact involve hygiene; dogs can bring germs, loose hair, and dirt around your new baby, which could endanger your newborn's health.
Teaching your dog to stay away from your baby so that a stressed out, startled, and possibly jealous dog does not present a hazard to a new baby is an important safety precaution for your child, and will prevent your dog from developing a negative association that will be difficult to overcome.
Although it is easy to interpret a dog's interest in a baby as affection, dogs show respect by maintaining an appropriate distance. You want your dog to see your child as a leader, not a littermate! Teaching your dog to keep a respectful distance is teaching your dog that the baby is a pack leader, not a subordinate, and will help your dog develop an appropriate relationship with your child as your child grows up. Teaching your dog to stay away from the baby is important, but never rely on this training with a new baby as too much is at stake. Do not leave a dog and baby unsupervised together.
Start training your dog to stay a respectful distance from the baby prior to your baby coming home. You can use a toy doll and baby sounds from a computer or smartphone to simulate the look and sound of an actual baby, and practice desired behaviors prior to baby's arrival. Trying to train your dog with a new baby in the house, when you have very limited time and your dog is under stress from the substantial adjustment to his environment will not be as effective. To train your dog appropriate behavior, you will need treats and, depending on your training method, a mat or crate.