Introducing a new member to the household
Here's the scenario, a couple gets married, stumbled upon a really cute dog, brings it home and has grand plans to live happily forever after. A test kit, some tears and joy later, the furry kid started barking. This is when people start to realize, the dog has to coexist with the little human. To some, it's a piece of cake; to others, it may look like a nightmare ready to unfold. Let's not even go to what some people say about kids and dogs. Here are some practical tips for your consideration if you are currently in that situation.
The one potential pitfall in integrating a young child to your household is complacent. Complacency makes an ill-prepared pet/human parent, which leads to problems that could have easily be avoided. Getting yourself prepared and thus starting on the right foot will undoubtedly make the process less stressful. One of the things that you can do is to start your dog on some form of formal training. Calming behaviors, placement, crate training, impulse control, etc. are some useful behaviors that can be taught in preparation for the arrival of the baby. Learning more about your dog and observing your/their behavior around visitors, especially young kids, will give you some insights on potential issues.
With the arrival of a newborn, parents are typically overwhelmed by not only joy, but a whole host of new skills to learn, from cleaning milk bottles, changing diapers to soaking up the tons of information on Facebook mummy/daddy's groups. With this, time spent with the dog will inevitably be affected. While it may seem insignificant to some of us, the dog will most likely feel the change. To lessen the impact of a sudden reduction in interactions, one may want to consider taking more frequent short walks as opposed to a long walk, having interactive toys at hand and probably taking turns to spend time with the dog instead of doing it together. Alternatively, you can also opt for daycare or have someone come over to walk the dog.
New kid/treat on the block
With their keen sense of smell, the dog would have easily picked up the scent of a new person in the house. This is where the early positive association comes into play. The easiest way is to have some nice treats around and reward the dog every single time the baby makes an appearance. Baby = tasty rewards. It's not rocket science. Eventually, the dog will look forward to seeing the baby. A positive emotional response will help with any future interactions. While Instagram may suggest otherwise, there is no need to let them get in contact until the kid grows a little older. However, this is your judgement call. You know your dog best, don't do it just because someone else did it.
Environment (in the eyes/nose of the dog)
Managing the dog in an environment that is likely to change very rapidly is something that will require planning. The good thing is, you have a few months to get that sorted out. Potential problems include delivery/doorbell ringing, confinement nanny, visitors, baby crying, people (meaning you) movement in unearthly hours, new furniture, etc. These are just some common examples of environmental changes. If your dog does react to such issues, you may want to seek help before the arrival of the baby. One of the most stressful things you can get is when the dog starts barking away when your baby just fell asleep just because the deliveryman pressed the doorbell. A simple solution is to manage the situation beforehand by informing them in advance, have a note beside the doorbell (in different languages! Happened to me.) or replacing the doorbell with a note to call. Not all problems require you to train the dog (it would be nice to be able to do it), some can easily be implemented by managing the environment.
Final note. As a new parent and a parent to the dog, it can get pretty stressful, especially if you get caught in a perfect storm (eg. Changing diapers after evening feed, the dog picked up the soiled diaper and started flinging it all over the place, everyone's screaming, deliveryman rang the doorbell, dog with poop rushed to the door and... power tripped). If things are not going well, talk to someone, a friend or a professional. Most times, things are not as bad as they seem.
Chen Wan Sheng
PUPS Certified Dog Trainer