Ask AKC with Lisa Peterson
October 2006

Dear Lisa:We have two female Labrador Retrievers. We will be joined by another family member, our first baby, due in a few months. Will the dogs be jealous or overprotective with a newborn? – Expecting Excitement in Erie

Dear Expecting: Dogs are social creatures thriving best in a pack or family environment with delegated leaders. In the wild, it is usually only the two dominant alpha members which reproduce offspring. The rest of the pack chips in to help with the other duties such as guarding, feeding, babysitting or whatever else needs to be done around the den. The trick is to let the pack know that the “human offspring” belongs to you and that you love him/her very much. Communicate to your dogs that the new bundle of joy isn’t a threat and your dogs won’t try to guard you against it.

Preparing for Baby
Many couples have dogs as surrogate “kids” and as such have showered their dogs with tons of attention. With the arrival of the baby, this attention usually shifts away from the dogs. One of the most important things you must continue to do is pay close, quality attention to your dogs after the baby arrives. Do not let the dogs think they are getting any less attention because of the baby or they may begin to “act up” or be spiteful, such as pooping in the baby’s room. Jealously with the dogs will only rear its ugly head if you give it a reason to.

Well before baby’s arrival, expecting parents need to establish a new “baby inclusive” routine. Change the dog’s feeding time, walk time, length of quality time to revolve around what will become the main schedule in the house – the baby’s. Also, if there are behaviors that are now acceptable to your dogs, such as sleeping on your bed or in your bedroom, and won’t be acceptable post partum, alter them now.

While Mom is still at the hospital have Dad bring home the smells of the baby such as clothing or blankets. It will reduce the sensory overload these dogs will have to deal with when “Junior” arrives. Put up baby gates on the door to the nursery to keep the dogs out. They should only be invited into the inner sanctum at your request and never leave dogs and baby unsupervised – ever.

Dear Lisa: I have a cute yellow Labrador Retrievers and I want to try and get him into magazine ads or even TV commercials. He is definitely a sight to see. How can I get him into show business?  – Hollywood-Bound Hound in Houston

Dear Hollywood: There are many different factors to consider besides just “being cute” before you attempt a Hollywood or Madison Avenue career for your dog. Having “the look” is only a small part of the total picture.

However, even if your dog is the coolest looking canine on the planet, if he is not obedience trained you can forget about the limelight. At the very least, your dog should have mastered sit, stay and come. Many trainers will work with you to train your dog for a specific shoot but knowing obedience basics as well as good manners will go a long way to landing him a modeling or acting job.

Talent Agencies
Most dogs appear on television, in movies or in print ads through animal talent agencies. Agencies typically have a database with “clients” or “talent” they show prospective producers, photographers or company representatives. Some agencies, such as Hollywood Animals in California, will register your dog in their database. Another agency, All Creatures Great and Small of New York does not charge a listing fee. But a screening process may be required before listing. Those looking for talent go to the Animal Actors Agency.

Another aspect of dog modeling you must consider is how well your dog handles stress and new situations. At a photo shoot for example, your dog may have to wait several hours before he is “on” and then be relaxed and obedient under the bright, hot lights. Some dogs can’t handle this. So before you become a stage mother to your dog think about his level of obedience, willingness to learn new routines and manners around strangers and other dogs. If he ranks high in these areas, is cute or very handsome and has some talent or tricks in his repertoire then by all means get him ready for his close-up!

Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Club Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at and she may select it to be answered here in Ask AKC.

© 2006 The American Kennel Club, Inc.