Ask Tom, the Dogcharmer: Penny

Getting ready to bring home baby.

Grace Bishop

Hi Tom,

Our 3 Rhodesian ridgeback, Penny, is as sweet and loving as they come, but she has been a spoiled “only child” since we got her as a puppy. Now that we’re expecting a new baby in the house, we want to make sure that she doesn’t feel neglected or act out when she’s suddenly faced with a new (human) sibling. What can we do to make this adjustment easier?


Concerned Dog Mom


Dear Concerned Mom,

Congratulations on your soon to arrive two-legged significant other, and being savvy enough to ask about creating sibling harmony with Penny, as opposed to sibling rivalry. Having three children of my own, I’ve experienced coming home from the hospital and making the dog-newborn introductions. To my wife Jaye and I, these homecomings were revered as very special times for our immediate family. Yet, to my chagrin in my training career, about a half a dozen times I was asked to be part of the reception crew when Mom and new baby were arriving home from hospital.

I was uncomfortable with these lessons, because I knew that the last thing I would have wanted when I came home with my wife and infant was a veritable stranger in the house.

So here’s what I suggest. Assuming you are not coming home the same day you give birth, gently rub the baby all over with two pieces of cloth, or take two articles of clothing the baby wore for a few hours, and have someone place one under the food bowl and the other under where Penny sleeps.

To a dog, most everything is through the nose, and these are two very positive places for Penny, and should give her a positive association to the scent of the baby. When it comes time for the actual introduction, with a loving, soft tone, invite Penny to smell the baby’s feet, and give her a very special treat that includes people food. From that point on, whenever you feed, change diapers, or interact with the baby in any way, call Penny over with treats to share the experience. Not knowing any better, many new parents do the opposite, creating jealousy. “Not now, dog, I have to feed the baby; not now, I have to … the baby.” You want to include Penny when it has to do with the baby, and go a little out of your way to ignore Penny when the baby’s not involved. This way your loving attention is associated with the baby, creating the harmony you want. Once again, congratulations.

Good luck,

The Dogcharmer


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