As Simon Cowell announces that he has brought a dog trainer on board to help ensure his dogs, Squiddly and Diddly, do not feel snubbed by the arrival of baby Cowell, the Kennel Club issues tips to help families with new born babies.
Carolyn Menteith, a Kennel Club Accredited Instructor, said: "Simon Cowell is very responsible to have brought a dog trainer on board to help the dogs feel at ease around baby Eric and to ensure that they develop a good and happy relationship.
"Simon clearly dotes on his dogs and they could find the introduction of a new-born confusing, particularly if they have been the centre of Simon's universe prior to the baby's arrival. While new parents have a lot to do with their new baby, it is important not make the dogs feel left out, or even worse, shut away from their family. They still need some quality time with their owners and all the same exercise and games they are used to, so they learn to enjoy having another member in their family as much as their parents do."
TOP TEN TIPS FOR NEW PARENTS
1. Mum should greet the dog while dad brings in the baby - If mum has been away at the hospital the dog will have missed her and be delighted to see her back so, despite the excitement of bringing the baby home, she should remember to greet the dog first so that he doesn't feel excluded. Then the dog can get used to the presence of the baby calmly.
2. Keep the dog busy - Use interactive toys like a stuffed Kong to occupy the dog when you are busy with the baby. They use up a lot of energy, plus if he learns that he gets really good things while the baby is around, he is far more likely to be happy with this new addition to his family.
3. Vary your dog's routine a little, long before the baby comes home - so he doesn't always expect things to happen at the same time every day. While dogs like routine, things are bound to change when the baby comes home.
4. Remember that the dog will still need the same amount of exercise and interaction - otherwise he will get frustrated and bored, which can lead to difficult behaviour. Try and find some 'dog time' in hectic baby-filled days.
5. Include, don't exclude - don't punish your dog for trying to get your attention - remember things have changed for him too! Instead calmly show him the right way to behave and reward him for it. He will then associate correct behaviour around the baby with something positive. Good manners however should have been trained well before the baby comes home.
6. When the baby is asleep, you can spend some quality time with your dog - playing games, doing some training, or if you have a babysitter, going for a walk. Remember to also include the dog when the baby is awake so everyone feels part of the family.
7. Use a baby gate - They are perfect for dogs as well as children as they can keep him away from the baby while he can still see what is going on and feel like part of the family. Try to teach your dog to spend time on the other side of the baby gate from you long before the arrival of the baby - making sure he always has something nice to chew so he learns that this is a good thing.
8. Crate training - By teaching the dog to enjoy being in a crate, he can be included far more by being in the same room as you and the baby and get used to all the new sounds, smells and sights, without having direct access to the baby (and, once the baby starts crawling, so the baby doesn't have direct access to the dog!).
9. Never leave the dog and baby alone together - and never allow the baby to 'play with the dog'. Many new parents think this is cute.... it isn't - it is often just dangerous!
10. As the baby grows, teach him how to behave - it is important to teach him the correct way to behave around dogs and how to treat them with respect. The Kennel Club has an interactive Safe and Sound game online, which teaches children the correct way to behave around dogs in different scenarios, so that safety is never compromised. www.thekennelclub.org.uk/safeandsound.
Carolyn continues: "There are plenty of steps that dog owning families expecting new-borns can take before the baby arrives. Most importantly, make sure your dog has grasped all of the basic life skills, including knowing not to jump up, so that you are not struggling to train your dog at the same time as bringing up a baby. If you have issues then it is advisable to get professional help and go to a recognised dog trainer or a good training class so that these can be ironed out."
To get help training your dog, the Kennel Club's Good Citizen Dog Training Scheme - www.thekennelclub.org.uk/dogtraining - is the largest dog training scheme in the UK and offers puppy foundation, bronze, silver and gold awards as a dog's training increases.
The Kennel Club Accreditation Scheme for Instructors in Dog Training and Canine Behaviour (KCAI) - www.thekennelclub.org.uk/kcai - Members of the KCAI scheme can offer specialist and one-to-one behaviour and training sessions.