If you’re expecting a baby, chances are you’re already feeling a little overwhelmed reading parenting books, setting up a nursery and making the necessary preparations to ensure everything is ready for your new addition. While your dog can sense a pregnancy, he may not know what to expect if this is your family’s first child. Putting in some work before you bring home your baby can help to keep your dogs calm, happy and under control as you learn the ins and outs of parenthood.
If your dog hasn’t had a lot of training or could use an obedience refresher, now is the time! While behaviors like barking out the window at passerby’s is annoying now, imagine how frustrated you’ll be when it wakes up the baby. It isn’t safe for your dog to leap up on you every time you walk in the door when you’re pregnant or carrying a new baby in your arms. Ensure your dog has a strong recall and understands basic obedience like sit, stay, and down.
Along with practicing standard obedience commands, take time to prepare your dog for touching that a child might do. Pet his ears, tail, face and belly. Give him treats when he patiently allows you to touch areas of his body that he may not be accustomed to having petted.
Change up your routine.
If your dog thrives on his routine and expects food or walks at certain times of day, begin to fluctuate the exact time that you do activities. It’s impossible to stick to a strict routine with a newborn and you don’t want your dog to become stressed if he’s fed a little later or has to go out for an earlier morning walk. A slow gradual change in his routine will help him be more tolerant of a flexible schedule after the baby has arrived.
Introduce the sights and sounds of a baby.
Acclimating your dog to the sights and sounds that come along with a baby before bringing one home can help to make the transition smoother for the whole family. Allow your dog to sniff new toys, lotions, powders, etc. to get an idea of the new smells that he’ll find around the house. Turn on a recording of baby sounds so the crying, yelling and cooing of a baby isn’t brand new when you bring your baby home. Take your dog for walks with the empty stroller so he learns how to walk politely next to it. If your dog doesn’t spend a lot of time around children, consider walking him through a park where he can watch children from a distance to get used to their movements and sounds. Remember, it’s important never to tie your dog to the stroller in the event he gets spooked and tries to take off.
If you want to ensure your dog is comfortable with the new routines surrounding a baby before you bring your new addition home, find a baby doll that you can perform activities with every day. If your dog is used to seeing you changing diapers, lifting a carrier, feeding the “baby,” etc., he’ll be less interested when you’re doing these things with a real baby.
Control the space.
Many dog owners don’t realize how much their personal space is controlled by their dog. They step over or around their dog rather than asking him to move. This may have worked fine before pregnancy but trying to climb around a dog when pregnant or carrying a baby is dangerous. Teaching your dog that you control the space will help establish your control of the house as well as encourage your dog to give you and the baby more space as leaders of the pack. Teach your dog to respect your space with the bumping game. If your dog happens to be in your path, continue in that direction and gently nudge the dog out of your way. After consistently “playing” the bumping game, your dog will learn that he’s required to move out of your way. Remember to never kick or sharply nudge your dog - it should be a gentle tap that teaches your dog he is in the space that you need to move through, therefore he needs to relocate. This is good practice for when your child begins crawling and walking, as your dog will know to move out of the way of his human family members and won’t become annoyed should the baby bump into him.
It’s important to teach your dog the “back” command to help control the space around yourself and the baby as well. If your dog is too close, too excited or follows you through a baby gate into an area that is off limits, you can use the back command to move him away.
Provide a safe place for everyone.
Ensure that your dog has a safe place to escape you and the baby (and hopefully the crying sounds.) Having a dog who is crate trained can be helpful during the first few months of having a baby as your dog will have a safe space to go to if he feels overwhelmed.
Put up baby gates to block off rooms that are reserved for you and the baby. Your dog doesn’t necessarily need to always be with the baby, and these gates can help teach him where he isn’t allowed. Once the baby gets a little older and begins crawling around, you can put up gates to block the dog’s safe areas from the young child to ensure your dog has somewhere to take a break.
Don’t smother your dog with love.
It’s a natural reaction to feel like you should give your dog as much love and attention as possible before bringing home a newborn. However, giving your dog excessive love only to give him less attention after the new baby comes home can cause even more problems. Show your dog equal affection throughout the pregnancy and after the baby comes home. Ensure that he still gets exercise and attention (even if it’s for a little less time) after the baby comes home or your dog may become jealous of the new member of his pack.
Set your dog up for success.
Before the baby arrives, ensure you stock up on extra indestructible toys, bones and treats. Your dog will need to be more independent and pass the time without you entertaining him nonstop for the first few months while you have your hands full. Keeping your dog mentally focused on interactive toys can help tire him out and keep him from resorting to destructive behaviors. If your dog is high energy, look into dog daycare where he can spend the day playing with friends and return home tired and ready to nap on the couch.
Make a delivery plan…for your dog.
Except for a few scenarios, most couples don’t know the exact time that they’ll go into labor. Establish a plan with reliable friend or family member who doesn’t mind being woken up in the middle of the night to come care for your dog if you have to leave for the hospital. Write out instructions on everything from feeding, walking, emergency contacts and toy preferences so your dog is tired and happy upon your return.
Preparing your dog for a new baby is an important step in ensuring the happiness and safety of all members of your family. Safely introduce your dog to the new baby soon after bringing the baby home so your pup feels included in welcoming the new member into the pack.