Fact or fiction: “If a family member brings the dog my baby’s blanket ahead of time, so he can get used to the smell of the baby, they will be fine together.”
This is perhaps one of the most widely disseminated pieces of advice that’s doled out by well-meaning friends and family members, and even professionals across the board from dog trainers to birthing experts. Shryock says it can’t hurt, but there’s a danger in thinking it’s the end-all, be-all of advice. She likes to quote a colleague who sums up the situation by saying, “If you were to come visit me, I wouldn’t ask you to send your underwear ahead of time so my dogs could get to know you …”
Yes, scent can be a valuable way to provide information to a dog, but how the information is presented is just as important. Many people enthusiastically show the dog the blanket, getting the dog overly excited and creating a heightened introduction. If dad has been visiting the baby and coming home to the dog, he’s already introduced the baby’s scent without needing to parade the blanket around.
Where the blanket can be especially useful is when the dog is staying with a friend or family members for a few days. In that case, the caretaker can help condition a positive association with the baby’s scent through short training sessions where he feeds the dog treats with the blanket nearby.
“A lot of people put a lot of stock in the idea that, if their dog doesn’t growl or react funny to the blanket, everything will be okay,” Shryock says. This can create a false sense of security. “It’s just not that simple.”