by Nicola Parry, DVM
Dealing With A Jealous Dog
Preparing for the arrival of a new baby can be hectic enough for the parents-to-be, but it can also be a time of great anxiety for your dog. It is important to remember that he was your first “baby”, so he may need help adjusting to any new arrival. This transition can be especially difficult if your dog tends to be jealous, or over-protective of you. Thankfully, however, there are things that you can do to train him for the arrival, and to minimize the rivalry that he will feel when he is no longer the center of your attention.
Ten Ways To Help Your Jealous Dog Adjust To A New Arrival
Before The Birth
- Neuter him (or her!): Neutering and spaying provides many health benefits for your dog, and additionally the resulting hormonal changes can positively influence behavior, often reducing aggression.
- Behavior therapy: If your dog’s jealousy tends to lead him to bite or show obvious signs of aggression, behavior therapy or dog training classes may be extremely beneficial. Start these as early as possible in your pregnancy.
- Let him meet other babies: If you have friends with a baby, see if they will allow you to visit with your dog, or even bring their child to your home. Control your dog’s access to the baby by keeping him on a leash, but even some short meetings can be useful so he can become accustomed to seeing and hearing a child.
- Expose him to crying: During your pregnancy, play a recording of a crying baby every so often – this can be a homemade recording of a friend’s baby, although there are companies online that sell similar things.
- Expose him to baby product smells: Rubbing baby powder or baby oil on your hands each day will allow him to become accustomed to these smells even before the baby arrives.
- Control his access to the baby’s room: By placing a gate at the door, he will be able to see inside. This will accustom him to being outside the room when the baby comes home, but will prevent him from feeling too left out.
- Encourage him to bond with another family member: If your dog is the center of your world, he will feel especially anxious and jealous when a new baby suddenly takes up all your time and energy. To guard against this, encourage someone else to build their relationship with him gradually throughout your pregnancy.
After The Birth
- Expose him to the baby’s smell: Before you return home with the baby, your partner can share something with him that has your baby’s smell on it – a blanket, or some clothes, for instance.
- Greet him when you arrive home: Be sure to pay your dog some attention as soon as you return home, while your partner takes the baby. When your dog is calm again, introduce him to the baby. Keep him on a leash if necessary, and reward his good, calm behavior with a treat. Keep initial interactions short, and gradually increase his exposure to the baby. Always supervise his time with the baby, until you are sure there will be no problematic behavior.
- Have Baby enter the house first: If your dog is territorial, before you arrive home with the baby, have a friend take your dog out for a walk. When your dog comes back, baby is already in the house rather than baby entering the house where the dogs already are. This really helps in curbing the territorial freak out session.
- Spend some time with him each day: Although your days will be hectic when your new arrival joins the family home, do your best to set aside just 10 minutes daily for one-to-one time with your dog. This will remind him that he is still important to you, and will help reduce his jealousy.
- Give your dog some Sleepytime Tonic each morning and evening. This all natural herbal elixir will take the edge off and help you high-strung dog relax. Think of it as Xanax for dogs.
Dogs are creatures of habit, so maintaining his regular routine once the new baby comes home can help him to adjust to the change.
No matter how much you plan ahead though, introducing a new family member to the home may still be difficult for a jealous pet. But by following the tips above, you can certainly ease your pet’s stress and reduce the likelihood of problems, allowing everyone to deal better with the new arrival!