Good Dog, Happy Baby: Preparing Your Dog for the Arrival of Your Child

Good Dog, Happy Baby: Preparing Your Dog for the Arrival of Your Child

by Michael Wombacher

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608683499
Publisher: New World Library
Publication date: 05/05/2015
Edition description: Revised Edition
Pages: 168
Sales rank: 466,589
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Dog trainer Michael Wombacher has performed tens of thousands of private behavioral consultations. He also lectures, teaches classes, runs a small boarding and training operation, and trains other trainers. His approach focuses on working with, rather than overriding, a dog's natural drives and instincts.

Kirby Heyborne is an accomplished actor, musician, and comedian who has received a number of AudioFile Earphones Awards for his audiobook narrations. He has had starring roles in over a dozen features and many short films. Kirby is also a cofounder and director of the Los Angeles-based improv comedy group The Society.

Read an Excerpt

Good Dog, Happy Baby

Preparing Your Dog for the Arrival of Your Child

By Michael Wombacher, Rose Guilbert, Bruce Henderson

New World Library

Copyright © 2015 Michael Wombacher
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60868-350-5


Early Considerations

Congratulations! You're pregnant and your "pack" will soon be growing. If you're like most people, you're caught between anticipation and trepidation. You're thrilled about the arrival of your new child, and you're concerned about doing everything right. If you own a dog, certainly some of your concern revolves around him. You're probably asking yourself, "How will my dog handle this? Will he be jealous? Will he be careful?" And most important: "Is there any chance that he might bite my child?" If you're not concerned, you should be. As I have already mentioned, approximately 80 percent of dog bites happen to children under five. The purpose of this book is to help you find your way through these concerns, answer important questions, and set the stage for a warm and mutually beneficial relationship between your dog and your new child. In addition, this book addresses the difficult question of whether having the dog you have right now will be appropriate when your new child arrives.

Heads Up!

Before discussing ways to ensure a smooth transition into siblinghood for your dog, it would be wise to assess whether there are any obvious potential problems looming on the horizon. Below I have provided a laundry list of questions you should ask yourself even if you're not pregnant but are simply considering the possibility. Take some time to observe your dog and answer these questions honestly. Doing so will allow you to notice any red flags and give you a head start in resolving problems if they do indeed exist. If you find no behavior problems, well, you're in good shape, aren't you? In that case feel free to merely skim the Doggie Twelve-Step Program in this chapter; skip chapter 2, "Addressing and Resolving Potential Behavior Problems"; and go straight to the final chapter, "A Seamless Transition," which outlines how best to ease your dog through the transition to life with a child.

Okay, here goes.

• Does your dog like children?

• Has he been exposed to them on a consistent basis? If not, why not? If it's simply for lack of opportunity, then now would be a good time to start exposing him to children while you closely observe his responses. Is he shy and intimidated? Is he suspicious? Is he overexuberant and pushy?

• What is your dog's general disposition? Is he sensitive to or fearful of novel stimulation such as loud noises, sudden movements, and rough handling? Is he hand shy? Is he emotionally dependent on you and generally spoiled? Is he afraid of being left alone? Is he pushy and demanding?

• Does your dog exhibit problematic behaviors? Some examples: Does he bark at you for attention? Does he jump up on you and your guests as a form of greeting? Does he steal food from tables or beg incessantly at dinnertime? And how does your dog relate generally to food and toys or other objects he considers his own? Does he need his own area in which to eat or chew on his favorite toys? Can you take anything away from him at any time without the slightest form of resistance? If your dog does offer resistance, what kind is it? Does he simply tense up and look at you out of the corner of his eye? Does he growl? Does he actually snap and bite? If your dog has furniture rights, do you have trouble removing him from the furniture? Do you have trouble getting him to move out of your way if he's resting somewhere? Is your dog overterritorial? Does he threaten your guests? Does he bark excessively? Does your dog understand obedience commands? If so, how well does he obey them?

If you have more than one dog in your household, ask yourself the preceding questions about each dog and then consider the following ones as well:

• How do your dogs get along together?

• Do they ever fight? If so, over what? Over food? Over toys? Over special places? Over you? Have they injured each other?

• Do they compete for your attention?

• Is it clear who is the dominant dog in your pack? Do you hold the leadership position in your pack?

This last issue is of utmost importance. Dogs are pack animals and, by their very nature, crave structure and authority or, in short, leadership. (By the way, this is true of children also.) If a dog does not perceive leadership in his environment, he will assume that the role, by default, is his. As political scientists will tell you: power, like nature, abhors a vacuum. A dog who perceives himself as leader in his human environment can be the source of significant problems, including many of those implied by the earlier questions.

If you're planning to bring a child into a household in which your dog is confused about his status or thinks he is the leader, whatever problems you are having now are highly likely to increase significantly. Because introducing a baby will change the structure of your dog's pack, he may feel the need to assert himself over any new members and reevaluate his relationship with existing members. Clearly, you don't want your dog asserting himself over your new baby. Even if your dog is not the assertive type and tends more in the fearful direction, the perception of a lack of effective leadership may exacerbate such fear and can contribute to a behavioral disposition simply known as fear-aggression. Effective leadership, then, results in not only the resolution of any behavior problems but also the seamless introduction of a new child to your pack.

With that in mind, I'm going to set forth by outlining my Doggie Twelve-Step Program. This is a rank-management program designed to establish you in the leadership position, and it forms a springboard for discussing the resolution of any potential problems. If you don't feel you're experiencing any problems with your dog, the application of this program may reveal areas of difficulty you were not aware of. Moreover, a great many elements of this routine should be implemented even if you're having no trouble with your dog, simply because they ensure good and safe behavior in all situations, especially those including children. Also, as you read through this program, you may find that some of the things discussed apply directly to your situation and others don't. Feel free to implement what makes sense in your context, and don't worry about what doesn't. If you find that your dog is perfectly well mannered in relation to all the things outlined in the program, consider yourself lucky and, by all means, move along through the rest of this book.

The Doggie Twelve-Step Program

This program ensures that your dog is receiving a coherent message about her social status in your household. It combines a variety of psychological and physical methodologies that appeal to her canine sensibilities and will help her become and remain a well-behaved and smoothly integrated member of your growing household.

1. Learn to Earn

In a pack situation the leader dog largely gets whatever he wants, anytime he wants it, from anyone he wants. This is in keeping with his position and makes perfect sense in that context. If in the human context the same thing happens — that is, the dog gets whatever he wants and no demands are placed on him — he simply has no choice but to conclude that he must be in charge. After all, if he weren't the leader why would everyone be so compliant? It follows that since he views himself as being in charge, he also views himself as having a variety of rights — rights that could lead him to act in inappropriate ways. The first step in adjusting the dog's view of himself, then, is to demote him from royalty to commoner and insist that he earn his living.

What this means in real time is that for every nice thing you do for your dog, he must do something for you first. For example, before you give him so much as a pat on the head you should ask him to comply with an obedience command, even if it's something as simple as "sit." If he doesn't do it, you gently but quickly make him. Any other nice things you do for him, such as feeding him, taking him for a walk, or playing with him, should be preceded by some type of demand. It could be anything — even a cute trick. Just be sure that it's not always the same demand. In other words, don't always ask him for the same old sit. Be sure to ask him for downs (that is, to lie down), for stands, for a short bit of heeling, or even, as I said, a silly trick. It doesn't really matter what it is so long as he does something for you before you do something for him.

The point? To get your dog to exercise impulse control and to look to you for direction. "Pattern training," or always asking for the same thing, defeats the purpose of what you're trying to do. If the dog is pattern trained he's merely running the pattern and not truly looking to you for direction, which is precisely the habit you want to get him into. He should get used to exercising impulse control and looking to you for direction in all things that are important to him. This will begin to position you as leader in your dog's mind. For most dogs this little routine goes a long way in ensuring a proper attitude toward their owners. Some dogs aren't quite that easy, however, and require a little extra effort.

If you're experiencing more serious attitude problems with your dog (if she's the pushy and demanding type), it's also useful to spend some time during the day actively ignoring her. Nothing gets a dog's attention like simply ignoring her. During a period of time when your dog is used to having your attention, simply cold-shoulder her. This means do not look at, speak to, or touch her. If she comes over to pester you for attention, either get up and walk off, run her through a bunch of obedience drills, or simply tell her to go away. Put a little theater into it and act annoyed to drive the point home. If your dog is the superpushy type and refuses to depart despite your theatrics, a squirt from a water bottle (if water doesn't bother her, try a taste deterrent such as Bitter Apple spray, or a breath spray like Binaca) right on her nose and mouth should convince her to depart.

For those pushy dogs used to demanding their owners' undivided attention most of the time, this kind of treatment may come as a shock. In fact, they may even go through a short period of depression, moping around with a "hangdog" look. If this happens to your dog, don't worry. Not only is this perfectly normal, but it is actually a good sign, as well. It simply means your dog knows that "the times, they are a changin'," and the upset likely will pass within three to seven days. Typically the more indulged the dog was, the longer the period of depression, but every dog invariably gets over it as she adjusts to the new regime and comes to terms with the new situation. From this much more solid foundation a whole new relationship can be built.

I have found that this part of the program — turning one's attention into a valued resource rather than having it taken for granted when dealing with a dog with attitude — is often the most emotionally challenging part for owners. In fact, in most cases it is more difficult for the owner than the dog. But trust me: once you are on the other side of this, your dog will love and respect you dramatically more, not less, than she did before, and I promise that you will not break her spirit. On the contrary, you'll have transformed the very foundation of your relationship into one of trust and respect and will be well positioned to teach her how to live with you and your new child in a positive and integrated way, which will make your partnership more fulfilling for both of you.

Believe me, simply pulling off this part of the rank-management program will cause your dog to look at you in an entirely new way. He will immediately begin to respect you and, yes, love you more. Always bear in mind that dogs crave structure and leadership, and that the person who puts the most pressure on a dog, in a fair way, gets the lion's share of the dog's love, affection, and respect.

2. Teach and Practice Obedience Exercises

A great deal of what I outline here presumes that your dog understands obedience commands. If he doesn't, you should begin teaching them immediately. Every dog's vocabulary, in my view, should include at a minimum the commands sit, down, stay, come, and off. Additionally, your dog should walk nicely on the leash and be generally attentive to you. More advanced commands include directing the dog to stand-stay (to hold a stay in a standing still position), heel, and perform emergency stops at a distance. I assure you that most every dog can learn these commands regardless of age, breed, or previous history. The only exception would be a geriatric dog who is essentially senile and physically incapacitated.

While this isn't the place for an extensive discussion of teaching obedience commands, I'll share one self-control exercise that I view as indispensable and which is surprisingly easy to teach. It's the sixty-minute down-stay. Now, you might be thinking, "Sixty minutes — no way! Not possible!" But it's easier than you may think. Select a one-hour period during the evening — perhaps while watching your favorite television program — put your dog on a leash and place him in a down-stay near you. Put one foot on the leash so he can't get far if he decides to move, have the handle in your hand, and then relax and watch your program. Your dog may lie down and sleep if he likes, or he can watch TV if he's that sort, but he is not to get up under any circumstances. If he tries to get up, which he inevitably will in the beginning, quickly place him back in his down-stay and start over. Most dogs get it rather quickly; but no matter how long it takes, stay with it. Once he does it in one situation, try it in another one. And then another. Imagine how helpful this will be when you're trying to get something done with your new child, like sitting down and nursing your baby with your dog lying calmly at your side.

In general, obedience exercises are crucial to the development of a proper relationship with any dog, but they are utterly indispensable if you're planning to have your dog live with a new child in the household. If your dog has no understanding of obedience commands, he will most likely end up spending a great deal of time isolated from the new social situation, and, as I said, this is something you want to avoid at all costs. Isolation will only teach your dog that his life took a radical turn for the worse the day your baby arrived. This means that if your dog's understanding of obedience commands is limited, now might be a good time to hire a trainer or attend some classes.

3. Control Feeding Arrangements

Food is the primary survival resource. Because of this I have often said that food is to dogs what money is to people. Whoever controls the food potentially commands a great deal of respect and authority. As a general rule, the higher-ranking individuals among wolf and dog packs have access to the premium pieces of food, while others have to wait their turn in accordance with their social status; the lowest-ranking pack members usually have to settle for scraps and leftovers. This orientation is deeply ingrained in your dog, and you can avail yourself of it when asserting your leadership in a nonconfrontational way.


Excerpted from Good Dog, Happy Baby by Michael Wombacher, Rose Guilbert, Bruce Henderson. Copyright © 2015 Michael Wombacher. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Chapter One. Early Considerations,
Chapter Two. Addressing and Resolving Potential Behavior Problems,
Chapter Three. A Seamless Transition,
A Few Final Thoughts,
Appendix. Notes on Training Equipment,
About the Author,

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Good Dog, Happy Baby: Preparing Your Dog for the Arrival of Your Child 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very disappointing book. Too much emphasis on hitting, smacking and choking my dog if they don't behave around my baby. Even advocates putting a dog down if it does not get along with your baby. Do not buy
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very thin book with outdated information. Talks about spraying Bitter Apple on my dog and using prong collars. Do not buy.