When you first get the news that you are expecting a baby, the nine-month duration of a pregnancy seems to be forever and you’re not particularly worried about how your dog will adjust, right? In truth, don’t blink because baby will be here before you know it and an unprepared pup can spell big-time trouble.
First Things First
Perhaps the most important step of all is that you are aware of the impact bringing a new baby into the home can have on your dog. It’s not going to be a matter of bringing the little one home with business as usual. Do be aware that long before you bring baby home, your pup is well aware of the changes in you. You look different, you smell different, and you act different. As he notices these changes, his anxiety level will raise. Now more than ever, he needs you to help him prepare for what will be a momentous change in his life.
Staying calm and centered is important for you, the baby, and your dog. We don’t give dogs enough credit for their intuition when it comes to their people. Engage in quiet times together and even consider dog training – a combination of yoga for humans with their dogs.
If you know your dog has some serious underlying issues, now is the perfect time to hire a professional dog trainer. David Greene, founder of Performance K9 Training and Boarding in San Diego North County, along with his other trainers, are the most well-respected trainers in the area and have helped many growing families with their dogs well before the baby due date.
Start Basic Obedience Training
Chances are, if you’re like most people, your ongoing practice of basic obedience has slid into the deep, dark realm of inertia. Now is the time to reawaken obedience drills, ensuring that your dog knows and performs these basic commands:
- Off or no jumping
- Leave it
- Down (as in lay down)
- Drop it
- Go To Your Place Command
- Start with these commands and do them daily to make certain your dog is well under control before the baby arrives.
Start Noise De-sensitization
Babies make noise … loud noise! The screams of a newborn rattles human nerves, let alone those of an innocent canine who has no clue what’s happening. You can desensitize your dog well in advance by finding an online video that has baby noises – loud and soft – and playing it for your pup regularly.
Buy Pup Supplies
You may already have some of these items, but do make sure you have the following:
If you don’t already have one or two, purchase several 4-to-6-foot leashes. Having several on hand allows you tie them together to have a longer leash, should the need arise. Avoid retractable leashes because although you may find them useful when you are walking your pup now, they can be dangerous with little ones around if not handled safely.
Your dog will need plenty of things to keep him busy now that you’ll be busy with baby. Consider toys you can stuff with yummy treats, such as Kong toys or lick mats.
Chewing is a dog’s therapy and allows him to expend his energy in a safe and productive way. There are plenty of tough, hard chew toys on the market today. Do avoid rawhide chews as they can cause a dog to choke as well as abdominal obstructions.
This is a biggie. If your dog doesn’t already have a nice, plush, high-quality bed with bolsters, now is the time to make an investment. You can begin training your dog to go to his bed on command by putting yummy treats in it while you issue your chosen command words. His bed will become his safe place when the rest of the household is in baby-induced chaos.
Another important safe place for him is his crate. If you don’t already have one, purchase a crate that allows him to turn around comfortably. Use the same technique with treats to train him so that the crate is another happy and safe place. Also, consider placing the crate in a quiet room that will be away from the hubbub and commotion. Once he sees it as a refuge place, you can close the door to the crate when you need to keep him confined.
Take a Training Stroll
Once the baby comes, you’ll probably want to take some strolls with your dog in tow next to the stroller. The time to acquaint and make your pet comfortable with this new and potentially scary vehicle is well before baby is aboard. Take it slow in the beginning, especially if your dog is timid or fearful of new things. Let him sniff and walk around it, being sure to hand out plenty of treats so he learns that stroller equals good things. After he seems comfortable with it standing still, go for a nice, slow stroll, also tossing him plenty of treats along the way. If at any time he seems frightened, go back a few steps before proceeding.
Change Scheduling and Routines
Dogs are very devoted to their routines and they work hard to keep their owners on their scheduling toes. Simply put: your baby is going to demand definite scheduling changes in your home, and this can be traumatic for your dog. If your dog is used to eating every day at 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., a sudden and unexpected mealtime change can throw him a curveball. Start changing the times you feed him now, so he won’t stress out when the baby comes. Likewise, vary his walk times. Also, don’t overdo the attention you give him now because the sudden lack of your time for him when baby arrives can truly upset him.
Once the baby arrives, your dog will be extremely curious about this new, loud, and squirmy little creature. Your behavior during the introduction process will set the stage for safe interactions between the two. Of course, you always need to be right there when your dog wants to sniff and investigate the baby, and to back away when you tell him to do so. In addition, make sure your dog is not physically wearing any chemicals (flea and tick protection) that could harm the baby such as collars or topicals. Check pharmaceutical companies for the safest options for you, your family and your dog.
Preparing your dog for your impending bundle of joy is to ensure the safety and joy of everyone involved. By taking the time and effort to institute these precautions, your new family will make a quick and happy adjustment.