Introducing your German Shepherd and newborn baby can be an emotional and exciting time.
Most socialised family dogs might initially take time to adjust to a new baby, but a German Shepherd’s love and protection of their family once they make a bond is renowned, just check out this video:
However, it’s not always smooth sailing! Introducing a dog to a newborn baby it ultimately your responsibility.
Obviously you want to ensure the safety of both your GSD and your baby. And, even if there are no danger concerns, you want the environment to be as organised and smooth running as possible.
Below you can find some informational and educational tips you might consider for both preparing for a newborn baby to come into your German Shepherd’s life, and also what you might consider when introducing a German Shepherd to your newborn.
Let’s get stuck into it…
Tips For Introducing Your German Shepherd To Your Newborn Baby
German Shepherd and Newborn Baby – Summary
- Dogs are similar to humans in the regard that when their routine and environment changes, they might get worried or scared, or simply take some time to adjust. Be patient with them, and ease them into changes – don’t expect perfection or results right away
- Focus on gradual introduction of the new sights, sounds and smells of having a baby in the house
- Plan well in advance
- Make it very clear on the boundaries and types of behaviors you expect from your German Shepherd when the baby arrives
- Older, more experienced dogs might be more calm around a baby than a puppy who is still maturing and hasn’t had as much exposure to socialisation and acceptable behaviors
- Seek the advice of a professional (vet or animal behavior specialist), or a qualified trainer who has experience in dog to baby interaction if you want specific or qualified advice on your dog’s ability to adapt. They might be able to tell you based
- Introducing your baby to your German Shepherd is ultimately your decision, and might take some effort and patience to prepare for and monitor
- In some cases, some people may not trust their dog around a newborn, or there might simply be lifestyle changes that make it impossible to have a newborn and dog in the same house. Obviously you want to think and plan in advance to prevent these problems, but if you’ve tried everything else, rehoming to a loving family can be an option
For some dogs, the sights, sounds and smells of a baby will be completely new – especially if there hasn’t been young children around the household before.
Consider What Baby Life Will Look Like Compared To What Life Is Like Now
Get used to thinking about how newborn baby life will look like – as this will be your new reality.
Consider all the little changes that will effect your dog’s life, and their expectations and behaviors.
Changes your dog will have to cope with are a change in routine, and most likely less attention. Some dogs with independent personalities cope fine with this, whilst others who naturally seek your attention may find it more difficult.
Consider exactly how your life will look like when the baby comes (getting up at weird hours, spending time caring for the baby when you would normally be spending time with your dog) and what your dog’s current routine is like. Make any necessary changes in advance such as:
- Changes in feeding times
- Changes in walking schedule – will you have time to walk your dog as much as you currently do? If not, is it worth considering hiring a dog walker?
- Changes in socialisation routine – e.g. when you might take your dog to the dog park
- Changes in the amount of attention and play time – if your dog starts whining or getting needy, start encouraging them and training them to be more independent
- Changes in sleeping arrangements – does your dog have any sleeping locations or routines that will be changed by the arrival of the baby? If so, make these changes in advance
- If your dog is going to be at home for long periods without you, consider getting them used to going to doggy day care once or twice a week
Non Negotiables For All Dogs
Whether you are having a newborn in the house or not, all German Shepherd puppies and young dogs should have been taught or exposed to:
- Basic Obedience
- Specific Commands that you require from your dog
- That you are the leader
- Have a bond with you based on love and mutual respect
These things will go a long way to giving your dog a good base for positive interaction with the new baby.
If you have neglected some of these areas, there’s no better time to start than now.
Preparing Your German Shepherd BEFORE The Baby Arrives
Two main things you want to teach your dog are how to be safe around the baby, and how to behave when adjusting to baby life.
Specific things you might choose to try are:
- Set your house up a few months before the baby arrives to get your German Shepherd used to the new layout and sights – baby’s crib, high chair, baby food, baby toys etc.
- Get your dog used to the smells of baby food, powders etc.
- Get your German Shepherd used to the areas you don’t want them going e.g. the baby’s room
- Buy a cheap baby doll from the shop with an in built crying sound – get your GSD exposed to the baby itself and the sounds of crying.
- See how your GSD reacts when you are holding, rocking or giving attention to the baby – train them to go sit on their bed or go play with their toys if they are seeking your attention. Discourage jumping and rough behavior with dog treat training
- Get your GSD comfortable with lots of face touching – babies like to touch things and explore. If this is an issue, consider minimising play time with your dog and baby, or at least closely supervising at all times
- Teach your GSD the difference between the baby’s toys and their toys – keep them in different locations
- Make sure they are up to speed on commands like sit, stay, leave it/drop, come
- If your GSD is easily excitable, you may want to brush up on crate training
- Does your dog bark a lot? This could be a problem for a baby’s ears. Consider the reasons your dog might be barking, and look to minimise the behavior before the baby arrives
Positive reward treat based training is invaluable for all of this.
Introducing and Managing Your German Shepherd When The Baby Arrives…
When the baby arrives:
- Golden rule – always supervise ANY dog around a newborn or toddler – it is ultimately your responsibility
- Supervise interaction closely in the initial stages
- Don’t let your dog get within pawing or mouthing distance of your baby until you have monitored their body language and you have made the decision it is acceptable to allow closer interaction
- If your GSD shows signs of being scared, aggressive or unpredictable, it’s certainly best to isolate the baby and dog from each other and seek professional advice. Rehoming might be a serious option
- Keep the dog’s space and the baby’s space separate – so your dog knows what to expect and so territory issues don’t develop. Ensure your dog has a safe and comfortable space they know is their space so they don’t feel uncomfortable
- Teach your baby over time as they learn to listen not to pull on a dog’s ears, poke them, or do things which might purposely hurt or irritate your dog
- Even if your German Shepherd ends up loving your baby (which most do), you still need to monitor interaction and keep enforcing boundaries and behaviors so your dog doesn’t creep into bad habits
- Keep your dog clean, well groomed and nails clipped (to prevent scratching) for sanitary purposes
- Pick up dog hair, poop and clean areas immediately such as dog bedding and things that your dog can access that might harm the baby
- Clean baby areas regularly and don’t leave nappies or baby items around that your GSD might get access to
- Consider getting baby gates to block off areas you don’t want your GSD accessing
- Your GSD will probably get protective of the baby – ensure behavior doesn’t get aggressive when new people come to see the baby
- Always be positively reinforcing good behaviors such as being calm, independent, obedient etc. when you notice it in your dog
- Don’t neglect walking, socialisation, bonding and feeding of your GSD – if these things are difficult to keep up – consider getting helpers like dog walkers
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