Updated: Aug 9, 2019
Dogs and baby pictures are the cutest! But, before baby arrives, there are some things your dog must absolutely know so that the transition can be as peaceful as possible for everyone. These tricks made life so much easier for our family once our first Filia arrived. Plus, our fluffy Cannis loved learning them! We do all of our training using Stewart Freeze Dried Liver treats because they taste and smell great (I'm basing this entirely on the dog's reaction, not my own experience!) and they are low in calories and all-natural, so you don't have to worry about giving your dog too many treats for being such a good boy or girl.
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Backup. This command, to have your dog walk backwards, is crucial to your baby's safety. Dogs often do not know how big they are (I know our 100 lb. Newfoundland 1-year-old doesn't), and they might be so excited to see your baby that they get in their face, putting your baby in danger (or licking them with a tongue that has been out in the barn licking everything in sight...looking at you, Canis!). Begin teaching this by walking up to your dog with a high-value treat. Keep walking towards him until he starts backing up, and say the command. If he just sits, be more animated with the treat, putting it near his nose, encouraging him to walk backwards. Do this several times a day. Once he reliably walks backwards, start decreasing the amount of steps you take towards him and increasing the amount of steps he needs to take backwards to earn the treat. If he ever messes up, don't sweat it, just take a step backwards (no pun intended), and try it again. You want him to master it at a certain level before making it harder. Pro tip: If your dog is really struggling with this one like ours did (he was not bred for brains), use it when he is doing something like sticking his head in the fridge. Ours would stick is head in to be nosy and smell around, so we started using "Backup" (in tandem with training him) while slowly shutting the door until he had to back up (not hurting him, of course!). This made things click faster for him.
Go find Dad. This is a useful trick that is loads of fun to teach, and the dog loves it and thinks it's a game. The idea is anyone in the house can say "Go find Dad" or "Go find Mom" and the dog will stop what he is doing and go find the correct person. This comes in handy when handling a baby. Sometimes, Mom will have her hands full, and the dog is being nosy. Saying "Go find Dad" would be much more effective than scolding the dog for being in the way. A quick "Go find Mom" can get your dog out of trouble and distract him from temptation with toys on the floor, etc. Start teaching this by playing hide-and-seek with your dog. Get his attention, then duck down quickly, enticing him to find you. When he finds you (Mom), reward him with a treat and a hearty ear rub, reinforcing the command by saying "Go find Mom" again. Repeat this with Dad immediately after. Go back and forth like this a while: the puppy will love the game. Make it all fun. Once the puppy has obviously mastered the idea of the game, make it a little harder to find the person. Once the puppy has proven himself in this, have Mom say "Go Find Dad" while Dad is already hidden, and vice versa. Play this game at least a couple of times a week with your dog after he has mastered it, and always keep it fun. This will give him an incentive to stop whatever exciting trouble he is getting to and go find Dad. We found that our dog absolutely loved this game as a puppy, and the commands work for him to this day.
Gentle. This command is harder to teach, but very important. It refers to how you want your dog to make contact with your baby. Decide with your family where the line is. Can he lick? Sniff? Nudge? No touch at all? Then buy a special, stuffed toy for your pup. When you play with your pup using this toy, apply the same rules that you would to your baby for this toy. Obviously, never give this toy to your pup unattended. Use the word "gentle" often and reinforce it with high-value treats. Make up games where the dog can bop the toy or find the toy (be creative based on your rules; you might have to involve other toys if the rule is no contact), but must adhere by your rules. Once he breaks the rules, end the game and come back to it later. Pro tip: If your dog is not allowed to touch your baby, bring out a tug toy along with your gentle toy. Allow your dog to tug and bite the tug toy all he wants. Make it exciting. Leave the gentle toy on the ground. When he approaches it, say gentle. If he does not make contact, reward him with more fun tug time. If he touches it, the game is over, and both toys go back up.
Good luck with your puppy! Remember, training works best when it is incorporated into daily activities, and especially when it is incorporated into games. Games are often a higher value reward to your puppy than treats are! What tricks would you add to this list?