Our new German Shepherd puppy was fearful and shaking in her cardboard box lined by an old blanket when my husband and I drove her away from her doggy parents and brothers on Grandma’s farm. It was our first day as parents to her, and we didn’t have any children yet. Everything was new to her, she had never been in a car before, and she protested movement when we hooked a leash to her new collar. Since everything was so new, we decided to keep one thing the same, the name she came with, Dora. We gave her a middle name, Bull. The name fit her, Dora Bull was absolutely adorable. Her ears and paws were too big for her body, and her curious personality had her chasing everything: moving windshield wipers when we drove in the rain; laser pointers and her favorite, shadows.
We really poured a lot of time and energy into training and just loving Dora as she grew up. We wanted to make sure she would be good around children, whether it was our future children or children of our friends and family. We had her learn a lot of the basics in training, but the most important as it relates to kids were:
- To be social: We didn’t want her to fear other people or children to the point of aggression. We made sure to have Dora around as many adults and children as we could. She is very tolerant of energetic children and new friends. We still feel protected at the same time. To this day, she can tell when someone is a friend or someone we don’t want around.
- To be non-food aggressive: Growing up, I knew a German Shepard who had to be distracted by one person on the opposite side of the yard while another person filled his bowl with food. If you filled his food in front of him, he would be aggressive and possibly bite you. I hoped to avoid food aggression, so I would make Dora sit and watch me fill her food dish. She had to wait to eat her food until I say “OK.” When she was a puppy, I would sit next to her while she ate, and I even fed her out of my hands so she was used to me being around her food.
When Dora was about one year old, we found out we were pregnant! But how was our dog going to react when we brought our baby home? We gave her a lot of attention, I remember feeling sad that more restaurants and stores in our area are not dog-friendly. I wanted to take her everywhere I could with me. It seemed she was just spoiled enough that it would be hard to introduce a new little one who would take our attention away from her.
I asked our dog trainer what advice she had for when we brought the baby home, there were really only a couple things she told us to do:
- A Familiar Scent: First bring home a piece of clothing that the baby wore for the dog to smell ahead of time. This will familiarize the dog with the baby’s scent.
- Shared Attention: Once the baby is home, pet the dog while you are holding the baby. This will signal to the dog that she still gets attention when you are holding the baby. If the dog only gets attention when you are not paying attention to the baby, she may then associate the lack of attention with the baby.
We followed that advice; but really, once we got home, it seemed there was nothing to worry about. We knew our dog’s temperament was already pretty tolerant, so that helped. We have had friends with dogs that didn’t have a temperament that they felt would work well with children. So they had to make a hard but loving choice to find another good home for their dogs.
After bringing our first baby home, some days, I wondered if our poor dog was neglected… because I wasn’t as concerned about things like dog-friendly restaurants or taking her everywhere with me. But years later, when I looked across the room, I saw her being snuggled by the three babies we brought home over time. I realized, she’s got more people to love her now. More energetic people to play fetch with her, feed her, snuggle with her and give her love and attention.
Note: Not all dogs allow kids to snuggle them, so our kids have been been taught to be cautious around other dogs. They know to assess the temperament (and health) of an animal with the help of an adult.
These are some tips I used to prepare our dog to meet our baby. Do you have any other ideas to get ready for your dog to meet your new baby?