Preparing the Family Dog for a Newborn
(NEW YORK) -- With all the hoopla surrounding the royal baby due to be born in mid-July, you can’t help but wonder what will happen to William and Kate’s first “child,” their beloved black cocker spaniel, Lupo, once the baby comes along.
How can the royal parents-to-be prepare their beloved pet for a new baby that will drastically force their attention elsewhere?
“When you have a young couple, like the royal couple, before they have children, the dog becomes the center of their universe. They treat it like their child,” Nicholas Dodman, director of the Animal Behavior Center at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton, Mass., told ABC News. “You can see how the dog becomes the center of their universe, totally spoiled, but that sets the stage for him having his nose get out of joint when their baby comes and disrupts his harmony.”
Therefore, Dodman says there are several actions William and Kate can take to get Lupo acclimated to having a baby in the household. Here is a list of the top 10 steps he suggests for getting the dog used to the new situation:
1) Keep the baby’s bedroom off limits, even before it arrives.
“If there are going to be any changes in the internal arrangements, it’s that the baby’s own room is off limits,” Dodman explained. “If the dog can’t go in there before the baby comes, then the baby doesn’t get credit for banning that behavior.”
2) Take the dog on walks with a baby doll in the stroller.
“Put a dolly in a stroller and have the dog go walking around the palace grounds,” said Dodman. “This gets the dog used to the idea of having a baby there, as a part of life, before the actual baby becomes part of the equation.”
3) Play tape recordings of babies crying.
“It seems to be the most annoying thing about the new baby, but if you play tapes of babies crying, it does wonderful things for the dog,” Dodman said. “They get used to the sounds of nails on a chalkboard. The sound upsets dogs more anything, so you can desensitize them with pre-recorded tapes you can buy.”
4) Get the dog comfortable with the baby’s scent.
“Bring clothing, or blankets or booties or something the dog can sniff to get used to it,” he explained. “When the baby is born, choose some clothes that have the baby’s scent to let the dog explore. The goal is trying to slowly introduce various aspects of the baby from geographical arrangements, to sounds, to smells. You could even walk around with the dog to other places where people have babies.”
5) Mom walks in first, then Dad enters with the baby.
“When bringing the baby home, how things work out really depends on the personality of the dog,” Dodman said. “Usually after the mom’s been away at the hospital, allow her to greet the excited dog first. Then Dad comes in with baby. Then baby is held while dog is on leash, and dog is allowed to sniff the baby.”
6) Dog naturally learns to protect the new “pack member.”
“The first year of life, they will pretty much ignore the baby, but recognize it as a ‘new pack member,’ and it will protect this person who is now part of its group,” he explains. “And so it may be if they have a visitor, and that visitor walks up to the bassinet, the dog might growl. The natural instinct is to protect.”
7) Be aware, the dog looks at the baby as a toy.
“If you have a dog on the pushy side, this could be a bit of an issue,” Dodman said. “Maybe not immediately, but when the baby starts to crawl very fast, or at least when they’re toddling, the dog looks at them like a big, fuzzy toy.”
8) The dog will protect itself from the child.
“Babies will pull on their tails and poke them in the eye,” said Dodman. “Children do dumb things, and they really need suppressing. It’s usually not the dog that is the instigator. The child goes to the dog, not maliciously, but certainly not welcomed by the dog, and the dog will turn around and protect itself.”
9) If the dog sleeps on your bed, break that habit now.
“If the dog is on the bed, that could be an issue,” he said. “If you’re going to change that arrangement, you want to do that before the baby comes along. This is an attempt to get the dog used to the new situation before the baby arrives and proper introductions are in place.”
10) Lastly, this is the overall rule of thumb.
“Be inclusionary during daylight hours when baby is around, not exclusionary,” Dodman explains. “If Kate was nursing the baby, and the dog was jumping around her, acknowledge and praise him to let him know he hasn’t been displaced in the family.
“Most people think when the baby is sleeping, now is the time to make up to the dog. But that’s incorrect because he thinks it’s the baby’s fault he hasn’t been getting any attention. They can end up blaming the baby for coming in and interrupting their life. And you end up with a sibling rivalry situation, they might start to urine mark around the house because they feel insecure because they want to reclaim it as their own. Allow the dog into activities as much as possible. At evenings when the baby is in bed, let it be quiet. The dog needs to be able to look forward to the baby.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio