I have some big news to share and that is, I’m expecting a baby! Because of this big life change that’s about to happen, and being a dog owner, I had to look into the topic of how to prepare your dog for a new baby. It’s good to be prepared as no matter how easy going and chilled your dog is, bringing a new baby into your household will be a massive change for everyone, your dog included.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to prepare your dog for the arrival of a new baby. Let’s discuss these in detail.
1. Plan for the arrival of your baby
To prepare your dog for the arrival of your new baby, you first need to understand how a baby will change your lifestyle. The answer of course is “in every possible way”, but it is important to think about the practical every day routines that will get affected so you can prepare your dog for these changes. For example, how will the arrival of your baby change your sleeping habits? How about your daily outings and dog walks? What other daily routines will get affected by your new baby?
If your dog’s sleeping arrangements will change when the baby comes, make sure you start preparing for the change well in advance. For example, your dog may have been sleeping in your bed, but when the baby arrives, you want your dog to sleep on the bedroom floor in a doggy bed. To prepare your dog properly, get the new doggy bed several months before the due date and start training your dog to sleep in his or her new bed. The new change in sleeping arrangements is made easier when you make it fun, which you can do by praising your dog and giving your dog plenty of treats when he or she goes in the new bed. Also, getting an extra comfy bed for your dog will make the new doggy bed more appealing (get some great ideas here). Try to reinforce a positive association with the new bed to encourage your dog to sleep in it.
Also, make sure your dog understands any new restrictions in the house. For example, if your dog is not allowed in the nursery, train your dog to not enter that room. Spend extra time teaching your dog, which rooms he or she is allowed and not allowed to enter. The easiest way to prevent your dog from entering a specific room is to keep the door shut.
It is also good to spend extra time obedience training your dog before the arrival your baby. An obedient and well-trained dog is overall calmer and more adaptable to new life changes than an untrained dog. If you’re not sure how to train your dog, contact a professional dog trainer for help.
By implementing these small changes before the arrival of the baby, your dog will adapt a lot easier to all the changes your new baby will bring about.
2. Prepare your dog for meeting the new baby
A new baby will be a stranger in the house to your dog so plan well for the home coming of your baby.
A friend of mine told me that when she had her daughter, her husband took a blanket which had the baby’s scent on it home from the hospital a couple of days before the mum and the baby were discharged. This allowed their dog to smell the blanket and get its first exposure to the baby’s smell before the baby came home.
I thought this was a great idea for setting a basis for your baby’s and dog’s first encounter as your dog will meet someone, whose smell he or she already knows.
Another idea to make your new baby more familiar to your dog is to show video clips of your baby to your dog before bringing the baby home from the hospital. This will hopefully allow your dog to hear sounds and noises made by your baby to help get used to the new family member.
3. Observe your dog’s reaction when meeting the baby for the first time
I have never experienced it myself, but I can imagine introducing your newborn to your dog can be slightly scary. Mothers of newborns are highly protective over their babies, thus even your own dog can feel like a threat.
A friend of mine, an owner of two very friendly cats, said that when she brought her newborn home, her cats seemed like fierce lions that she had to protect her baby from!
So when introducing your baby to your dog, your responsibility is to watch the whole situation like a hawk. It is important to have two adults present (you and your partner for example) so that one can hold the baby and the other watch over the dog.
Make the situation as calm as possible by staying calm yourself and setting up the meeting in a calm environment. If you’re highly nervous, your dog will sense it and he or she will become nervous as well.
Carefully watch your dog’s body language. If your dog appears calm and relaxed, you may carefully allow your dog to come closer and sniff the baby. Remember to reward good behavior with praises and tasty treats.
Unwanted behavior includes hyper excitement, anxiety and aggression. If your dog shows these kinds of behavioral traits in front of the baby, you’ll have to take the introduction slow. Allow your dog to spend time with your baby on a daily basis, but start the meetings from a few minutes slowly increasing the time your dog and baby spend together. Make the experience positive for your dog by giving your dog a lot of attention and treats.
If your dog doesn’t start showing improvements in its behavior its good to seek professional help from an experienced dog trainer sooner rather than later.
4. Make time for your dog
Even though your baby will likely steal most of your attention, remember to make time for your dog. It is important for a dog to feel loved and cared for.
Play with your dog, try to go for your daily walks and spend time training your dog when you can. Dividing the attention between your dog and your baby is a lot easier when you can share the load with someone, such as your partner. When one of you is consumed with the baby, the other can spend time with the dog.
A great way to teach your dog to enjoy spending time with the baby is making the time when the baby isn’t around very boring. For example when the baby is sleeping, don’t pay attention to your dog, but when the baby is awake show your dog extra attention. This way your dog will associate baby time being exciting, which will help your dog bond with the baby even more.
5. Remember, all dogs are different
As all dogs are different, it is almost impossible to predict how your dog will react when a new baby joins the family. My dog is currently just over one-year old, so he’s still a puppy and loves both adults and children. I’m not too concerned of him not getting along with the baby.
More challenges can arise if you have an older dog. A friend of mine, who is the mother of a one-year old, has a three-year-old dog. She’s told me her dog is indifferent about the baby, meaning he is not interested nor does he show aggression towards the baby.
With big life changes its good to remain calm and open-minded. I’m feeling positive about the big life change that is about to hit our family, but I’m also aware that we might encounter challenges we weren’t even expecting. So best not to expect anything.
I would love to hear your thoughts and comments regarding this topic and if you have personal experiences, please let me know!
To many happy barks & walks,