Most people have fond memories of their beloved childhood pets. If you are expecting a new addition to your family, there are many things you can do to prepare your Great Dane to be around newborns and children.
In fact, you can begin preparing your dog for this change before the baby is even born. This will help create an easier transition to a new routine and a changing environment.
Preparing For The Baby’s Arrival
If your dog has never been to obedience training, this is a great time to do it. At the very least, your dog should know and respond well to basic commands, such as sit, stay, down, etc.
You don’t want to be dealing with the stress of a newborn and trying to control a massive, unruly dog at the same time.
If you lay the groundwork for obedience before the baby comes, it will be a much smoother transition. Your dog will not feel so overwhelmed by all the changes that are happening.
If your dog already knows basic commands, you can also use this time to correct any negative behaviors. If your dog tends to get overexcited easily, teach him to go his bed and settle down on command.
Barking when someone is at the door is also a good habit to break before the baby comes. You definitely won’t want him waking up your napping infant every day.
Skipping the basics is a big no-no when it comes to getting your dog ready for a new baby or child in the home. Take a look at this clip from Animal Planet’s Zak George for extra confirmation!
Create a Space for your Great Dane
Your dog will definitely need their own safe space if he does not have one already. Set up a comfortable crate filled with soft bedding and his favorite toys.
Make it a place that is solely his, and teach him to go there when he needs time alone.
This will give him a safe place to retreat to when he is feeling overwhelmed by all the new sights, sounds, and smells.
Ideally, situate it far enough away from the nursery so that they are able to catch up on rest undisturbed when needed.
It is also a good idea to re-establish boundaries or set new boundaries before the baby’s arrival. If the nursery will be off-limits, train your dog beforehand to stay out of that room.
Consider what life will be like after the baby comes, and adapt your dog to this new routine now.
Will you still want your 150-pound dog sleeping on your bed next to your 7-pound infant? Do you want him trying to crawl into your lap on the couch during feeding times?
Make these changes now, so that he doesn’t feel rejected or overly stressed when the new baby comes.
You should also practice walking your dog while pushing a stroller. Get them used to calmly walking beside the empty stroller. Sort out any problems or issues that arise from this now before it’s carrying your baby!
Otherwise, you may not be able to exercise him efficiently after the baby arrives.
A hyper, un-exercised dog will definitely add more stress to an already stressful situation. They will also begin to feel neglected if your daily walks together suddenly stop when the baby comes, so make it a family activity!
Adjusting for New Sounds and Play
A new baby will bring new sounds with it, so desensitize your dog to these strange noises now. Play recordings of a baby crying, and reward him when he does not react negatively.
Slowly turn up the volume and play it at random times throughout the day. This will help him get used to the new sounds so that there will not be any issues when the baby comes.
Crawling babies and toddlers tend to grab at anything within their reach, even your dog’s ears and tail. Teach him to accept rougher handling than he is probably used to. This can literally be a lifesaver when you have young children and dogs together.
Train him not to react aggressively towards a surprising tail pull or rough grab, and it will keep both him and your baby safer.
Set up the nursery and get out the baby’s things early so that your dog can get used to them. Don’t scold him for being curious and wanting to check out the new crib or playpen.
Just make sure that he is gentle with his investigation. Otherwise, he may associate the new baby with punishment and negative emotions.
You may feel guilty, but it is important to decrease the amount of attention your dog is used to getting before the arrival of the baby.
It is virtually guaranteed that you won’t be able to spend as much time with them after the baby comes, and they need to adjust to that.
Start decreasing your attention and time together for two to three weeks beforehand. This will keep them from associating any drop in attention with the arrival of the baby.
Believe me when I say that this is far easier said than done, but it’s a necessary step in the process.
Think about any other changes that will be necessary after the baby’s arrival. Things that don’t seem significant to you, may be a big deal to your Great Dane.
For example, where will your dog ride in the car when there is a car seat in the back seat? If he will be pushed all the way to the back, train him to ride there now. He may develop resentment towards the baby if he feels like it is taking his usual spot.
This is just one example, but try to think of other scenarios that will be affected and make changes in advance of the baby’s arrival.
First Meeting With The Baby
Your dog will likely be alone at home for more time than usual during the baby’s birth. Alternatively, they may have also spent a few days at a friend’s house or with a boarder.
When you do come home, greet your Great Dane alone first, without the baby. They will be intensely excited and relieved to see you, and you don’t want him accidentally jumping on the baby.
Allow your significant other to also greet them alone. This will allow them to calm down before bringing in the new addition to the family.
They will also be overwhelmed by the new smells of the baby. Let them smell a blanket or piece of clothing that the baby has worn first. However, don’t just hand him the blanket or let him start playing with it. Allow him to gently smell it and get used to the new baby’s scent.
After he grows accustomed to the new smell, introduce him to the baby while he is on a leash. Start with gentle sniff of their feet for a first introduction.
Calmly correct them if he starts getting too rough with his investigation and praise him for being gentle. Monitor how he reacts to the baby crying or moving around.
He may misinterpret these actions as signs that the baby wants to play.
Even if your dog behaves perfectly and seems to adore the new baby, never leave them alone together. You should always supervise their time together, and be prepared to intervene if necessary. Great Danes are large enough to easily accidentally injure a small child or baby.
Be sure and give him attention when the baby is around as well. You don’t want him to feel like he only gets attention when the baby is asleep in another room.
This can lead him to think that the baby is stealing your love and attention away from him.
Beyond the First Meeting
It is crucial that you continue to give your dog plenty of one-on-one time. You will not be able to give your dog as much undivided attention as before, but don’t neglect them.
They still need to be walked and played with and shown that they are a part of the family. An exercise and playtime schedule can help ensure that your dog is not forgotten in the new busyness and stress.
It will also provide him with a routine that they and you can count on, even amid all the changes.
As your child grows, it is important to teach them how to safely interact with the dog. As early as you can, make sure that they understand tail pulling and aggressive handling can hurt and upset him.
This includes throwing toys at him or hitting him, even playfully with soft objects. They also need to know that, despite his size, your Great Dane is not meant to ridden. This could hurt both your child and Great Dane, so make sure that this is well understood.
Your child also needs to be taught when the dog is off limits. Help them to understand that the dog’s crate is his personal space. This is where he goes when he needs time alone, and they should respect that.
Teach them not to mess with his bedding or his toys either. He needs to know that your child is not a rival that he needs to protect his belongings from.
You should also teach them that the dog likely does not want to be bothered while eating. Even if your dog has never shown any food aggression before.
Your dog sees you as an authority figure, but may not see a small child that way. If your child tries to approach him while he is eating, he may feel threatened or protective of his food.
In this case, his natural instinct would be to growl and snap. He may not intentionally be trying to hurt the child, but they may still end up being injured.
Since Great Danes are especially susceptible to bloat, it is important that they have time to digest their meals. Make sure your child understands not to play with the dog for at least an hour after he eats.
This will help reduce your dog’s risk for this critical condition.