When Jasper was young, he always loved children when his owner took him on walks to the park or visited friends with kids. However, now Jasper's owner is expecting her first child with her husband, and she is concerned about Jasper and the new baby. Jasper is now what is classified as a senior dog-- he is 12 years old, his hearing is not good, his sight is not as good either and his backend is sometimes sore when he gets up after a long nap. Although he has not shown signs of aggression to anyone yet and is still his happy go lucky self, Jasper’s owner is concerned that the unexpected sights and sounds of a baby may be distressing to a senior dog like Jasper. She is also concerned that Jasper could spread germs to her newborn.Jasper has no compunction about sniffing everything he discovers when out on their daily walks, including poop and dead things!
Jasper’s owners think the best solution would be to teach him to stay away from the baby, so he is not upset by sudden movements and noise and they do not have to punish or yell at him for sticking his nose too close to the baby's face, which would be confusing for Jasper and create a negative association. They want to cause as little disruption to Jasper's life as possible and create a safe place for the new addition to their family.
The best way to teach your older dog to stay away from a baby is to initiate training prior to when the baby comes home. This gives you more time, in a less stressful environment, without having to juggle the needs of a newborn, recovery from labor and delivery, and the training requirements of your dog. There are several strategies for training your dog to move away from the baby including providing verbal commands or hand signals to direct your dog away. By practicing these commands prior to the baby's arrival, and with items like a crying doll, you avoid associating the commands with just your baby, which could create a negative association with your child. Your older dog will learn by practicing these commands prior to the baby's arrival, and they can be applied to a variety of people and things, which will avoid a negative association with commands only being applied to the new baby. Providing a safe place for your older dog to retreat to, away from baby, can also be a useful method to keep a senior dog away from a baby and give the dog a quiet refuge from a screaming baby and frantic parents. Old dogs sometimes just need a quiet spot away from the chaos, and this can kill two birds with one stone.
Teaching your older dog tools to stay away from your baby prior to the baby's arrival is best, however, training can be initiated once baby has arrived, if necessary. Remember that generalizing commands to apply to a variety of objects, rather than just the baby, will avoid your dog creating a negative association with the baby. Using treats to establish commands and providing a safe place, with a bed or mat that an older dog can retreat to can be a good solution; this allows your dog some peace and quiet and keeps him out of baby's space as well. Make sure the “place’ is comfy and has toys or rawhide chews to make it pleasant for your older dog and not a place of punishment.