By Karen A. Soukiasian
One of the leading causes of dogs being surrendered to shelters and rescues is, “We are having a baby!”
So, after years of being pampered, loved and considered a member of the family, now the dog is considered a threat. So, feeble excuses are made to justify a poor decision, and before they know it, he or she is discarded like an old shoe.
Thousands of perfectly healthy, good-natured dogs are euthanized each year, simply because shelters and rescues are overflowing with “used” pets and lame excuses…not to mention broken hearts!
Granted, the most important consideration is the safety of the new baby. Accidents do happen. However, if precautions are taken to avoid them, everyone can learn to live happily and safely under the same roof.
Most, not all, dogs welcome having a new pack member and adjust very well. With nine or more months to prepare, the dog that was once the center of a couple’s universe, will learn they are still a valued member of the pack. The only difference is, they have simply been knocked down a notch.
The sooner you work with your dog, the easier the transition will be. First, in fairness to your dog, a commitment must be made to give him or her, ample time to adjust to the shift in status, and to learn the new rules.
Decisions must be made on what he or she will and will not be included in. For example, will your dog be allowed in the nursery? If the answer is yes, will they be allowed free access, or will there be a designated area they must retreat to, so they will feel included; but not be underfoot.
With a game plan intact, the next thing you must do, is find a local dog trainer, experienced in helping new families in this situation. Make sure they apply positive reinforcement, punishment-free methods. The trainer will evaluate your dog, and your situation. They will recommend whether or not they believe your dog can make the adjustment successfully.
Dogs usually fit into one of three categories:
1. Dogs that are great with kids
2. Dogs that have little or no experience with kids
3. Dogs that should never be around kids
If your dog fits into one of the first two categories, you are good to go!
The dog that is great with kids simply has to learn new boundaries and rules. Obedience training should be on the agenda. This helps the dog still feel connected to you, and gives you peace of mind that the dog will follow your commands… immediately and without hesitation.
The dog with little or no experience with kids usually will do well if desensitized slowly. The objective is for them to make the association that kids are fun and good things happen when they are around! Again, obedience training will help. There they will learn boundaries and rules. Odds are, you’ll be getting a puppy or dog for your new child one day… why not keep this one?
If your dog fits into the third category, you may want to consider re-homing them on your own. If the bond with your dog is as strong as it should be, it is YOUR responsibility to them to be sure they will have a loving home with a safe and happy future without you.
Do not dump them in a shelter or rescue. Personally make sure their new home is one where he or she will not be faced with being displaced again. This experience will be rough enough on your former best friend.
Bottom Line: Don’t dump the dog with the baby’s bath water. Invest the time, make the effort, so that everyone will be a winner…especially your child. There is nothing like the bond of a child and their dog.
Children, who grow up in responsible dog loving homes, more often than not, grow up to be empathetic, kind-hearted, responsible, adults…just like you!
Follow Karen A. Soukiasian on Facebook