terms "dog mom" and "dog dad" have
gained popularity recently, thanks to social media and a
bombardment of products aimed at doting owners. But what
happens when pooch parents find out theyíre becoming
many couples and their canine companions, bringing baby
home is no biggie.
couples are faced with stressful situations ó and, at
worst, tough decisions. According to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, children are among those
at highest risk for dog bites, and theyíre more likely
than adults to receive medical attention for bites.
worried her aggression is going to get worse, not
better," said Amy Braun, of her 7-year-old chow
mix, Milka. Braun, who is expecting a baby in April,
lives in Chicago with her husband, Todd, and Milka.
"People get rid of their dogs, and thatís not me.
Thatís not an option."
for moms-to-be like Braun, todayís dog-obsessed
society has more than a few resources to help the
transition go smoothly. In big cities and small towns,
dog-training businesses offer classes and individual
training aimed at owners whose pets need baby-friendly
& The Baby is a two-hour crash course for expectant
parents ó or those with newborns ó offered by
Prentice Womenís Hospital in Chicago.
donít have to sell you on the fact that things are
going to change for your dog ó you already know
that," instructor Nicole Stewart told a recent
is a certified professional dog trainer and director of
training at Chicago-based Animal Sense. She says the
biggest mistake couples make is not starting new habits
during the pregnancy while there is still time to
key is to make things as similar to what itís going to
be after the baby is born," she said.
includes building the crib, introducing new toys,
putting up gates and tweaking daily schedules.
dogs that are timid around unfamiliar sights and sounds,
Stewart uses a standard technique called positive
reinforcement training. Or in her words, "hot dog
therapy." In essence, the dog gets a treat at the
same time a "scary" baby-related event or item
small dogs, maybe thatís a giant baby bouncer. For
dogs skittish around loud noises, maybe itís a baby
cry, in which case you can train using a recording or
idea is to ease the dog into the new stimuli slowly, and
with treat it hand, in the weeks and months prior to
coming home from the hospital.
two types of people," said Robin Edwards,
co-founder of Home Dog Training of South Florida.
"Some (parents) that are maybe five to six months
into (parenthood), and they realize, ĎWow, my dog is
acting weird or barking a lot ó what are we going to
having a baby tomorrow; what am I going to do with my
third type of dog owner is a rare breed: the
ultra-prepared (or ultra-worried, depending on how you
look at it). For those extreme cases, Stewart says, donít
laugh at the idea of a fake baby.
we found out we were pregnant, we knew we were worried
about Paco immediately," said Andrea Alvarez, who
lives with her husband, Tony Pacini, and their son,
Luke, in Geneva, Ill.
couple did what a lot of newbies do: They Googled, and
at six months pregnant, they welcomed home a fake baby.
carried it around, rocked it, put it to bed ó even
called it baby Luke ó in hopes their Chihuahua mix
would get used to having an infant around.
said Paco wasnít fooled for long ó although Stewart
does have successful client stories ó but he was
well-behaved when real baby Luke arrived in early 2015.
we came over with the real baby, he was curious,"
Alvarez said. "It took a couple months for him to
get used to everything."
first few months are critical, said Joan Harris,
director of training and canine behavior at PAWS
and adults have to really be on spot with that
relationship," Harris said. "Especially people
who had dogs as children. They donít realize how much
their own parents supervised things."
that are aggressively protective of people, food or toys
are referred to as "resource guarders" and
require extra caution and work. Stewart said a
professional trainer may be needed.
more laid-back dogs have their limits.
are not equipped to read dogsí body language, so they
donít adjust like an adult would," said Harris.
of Braunís motivation for attending Bowser & The
Baby was her uncertainty about how Milka will handle
being around infants and toddlers.
Iím holding an infant, she wonít leave my side, and
she wants to sniff the baby like crazy," she said.
"I donít feel comfortable enough to leave the
baby on the floor with the dog, because I just donít
know what sheís going to do."
is where "Go to place!" comes in handy, a
command all trainers seem to rally behind. Different dog
owners may have different words, but the goal is to
create a safe place for Fido where heís happy and
comfortable ó like a dog bed in the corner of the
living room ó so that when mom and dad need to focus
on baby, the dog can be put somewhere he feels safe and
content ó and out of the way.
has a place, you have a place, the dog should have a
place," Stewart said.
time for mom, dad and dog is also important, Harris
said. After all, they were used to being the only child.
do become part of your family," Braun said about
Milka. "Sheís my baby too."
whose son is grown up and out of the house, remembers
what it was like to welcome a baby with a pup at home.
of the sudden, youíre bringing the most precious thing
you could possibly have in your life into your home, and
you realize if the dog is going to bite or growl or
something like that Ö thatís a huge thing," she
said a common misconception is that dog bites happen
without warning. That warning will come in the form of
body language: The dog may tuck its tail between its
legs, put its ears back, excessively yawn or lick its
nose, or turn its head away from the action.
that do show signs of stress need more work at home and,
in some cases, professional help. For those pups,
nonprofit shelters across the country often host group
classes for basic training commands, and itís not hard
to find private businesses that offer baby- or
for online resources, owners can find everything from
video tutorials to webinars ó even a hotline. National
organizations, like the ASPCA and Humane Society, have
sections of their website dedicated to the topic.
key is to accept that things will be different and not
to buy into what industry pros call "the Lassie
myth" ó the idea that your dog and baby are going
to follow each other around and be the best of friends.
said, Paco and Luke have managed to form a beautiful
Alvarez put it, "When Luke comes home from day
care, he goes right to the dog."