Having a baby at home can bring so much joy for the whole family. However, there is one member of the family that is not really that excited at all. We’re talking about your four-legged furry little friend, of course. And even if you were lucky enough to bring home one of those breeds that are considered to be the friendliest to kids, they may never really understand at first why you’re bringing home another ‘human’ master when they already have you. We understand the feeling. It’s quite common among kids, too. And if your toddler or preschooler may not be all that excited about the presence of a new baby at home, your pet dog may feel the same way. Don’t worry as we’re going to help you figure it out in this essential guide for preparing your dog for a new baby.
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Obviously, the very first thing that you will be thinking about is the reason for your dog’s seeming aversion (pardon the term for lack of better word to describe it) to your little one.
As we’ve said above, it’s almost similar to children’s sibling rivalry. The moment a new child comes along, sibling rivalry crops up in an instant. Child psychologists look at it more as an ever-evolving concept, depending on the developmental level of the child. Toddlers will protect their toys so they won’t share it with a new baby. School aged children are different and would like equality in everything. As such, they expect to be treated fair and square just like the new baby. Teens, on the other hand, are enjoying a sense of individuality so they don’t really like the idea of having to take care of a new baby.
When taken into the context of a dog-new baby scenario, canines usually interpret the arrival of a new baby as competition for resources. Dogs love us because of the food and water we give them, the playtime we spend with them, the exercise we provide, and the special bonding moments we cherish with these creatures.
That being said, bringing home a new member of the household simply means having to share these resources. Even if it was not a baby who is brought into the family, say a new dog you brought home from the shelter or from a friend, your dog will still be reacting in quite an odd manner. Why? Again, it’s all about competing for the dog’s resources – your attention, the food, the playtime, the exercise, and those special moments spent with you will now have to be shared with someone else.
As such, you should prepare your dog really well for your new baby.
Aggressive dogs are pretty bad on a leash and they don’t do well on recall either. If your pet dog happens to have both characteristics, then it’s not too late to train it even before your baby arrives home or you’re still carrying him or her in your womb.
Train your dog to come to you when called. You should also teach it how to walk on a leash. Other basic commands that you need to teach your dog can include ‘sit’, ‘down’, ‘back’, ‘stay’, ‘go to crate’, ‘go to mat’, and ‘leave it’, among others. Be ready with your dog’s treats. Make sure that it is something that your pooch simply cannot resist. That also means you’ve got to have a fair understanding of your dog’s needs and likes.
The idea here is to make your dog listen to you. You’re supposed to be its pack leader. It’s time to act like one.
It might also be a good idea to enroll your pet in an obedience class. Some pet parents who are also expecting a new baby also find it useful to socialize their dogs to the sight and scent of babies. Pet parents typically ask their friends who have young children if they can walk their dogs near their babies on strollers. This helps introduce the dog to the sight and smell of a baby. In many instances, the dog can actually walk with the young kid.
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Introduce Your Dog to Baby Things and Stuff
Many of the changes that your dog will be noticing are in the months leading up to your delivery and the eventual arrival of your baby. You will be making some changes in your house such as preparing the nursery where your new baby will be staying as well as buying new stuff for the baby. Cribs, play mats, baby bath tubs, and the like will all look strange for your hound. Even the colors of the nursery and baby decorations will seem strange in the eyes of your dog.
Like everything else, it is important to teach your dog to associate these changes with pleasant things. If you intend to allow your pet dog into your soon-to-be baby’s nursery allowing your pet to ‘nose’ around should help it get acquainted with all of these things such as the baby crib, the play mat, the baby toys, and a whole lot more.
However, if you don’t want your pet to be snooping around, having dog gates or even screen doors will still give your dog a chance to see what’s inside the room without really having to go inside. This makes your pet dog feel less isolated.
For many pet parents, playing CDs of baby music or even the cries of babies help in acclimatizing dogs to the eventual cries of a real baby. They will feel more at ease when your baby does cry as they are already accustomed to the sound.
Sometimes putting a baby doll in the crib, bassinet, or even stroller helps. You can allow your dog to walk with you on a leash while you’re pushing the stroller carrying the baby doll. Your neighbors might have a very quizzed look on their faces, but you’re actually acclimatizing your pet to the new normal. You may even consider getting a new dog stroller for your pooch, to make sure your canine friend doesn’t feel left out.
Establish a New Normal
It is important to realize that when you bring your new baby home, your time for your pet will also be substantially reduced. While you’re still pregnant, this is the perfect time to really get your dog get used to the new routine in your home. As such, playing with a baby doll and pretending that it really is your baby will somehow give your pet the idea that this is now how the ‘new normal’ will look like.
Break it to your dog slowly. Gradually decrease the time that you are playing with it until you reach a point that you think you can manage even if the baby is already here. For instance, if in the past you played with your dog for a good 30 minutes and you know that this is not going to be possible once the baby is there, then maybe you should try to go for a more realistic playtime of 10 minutes. To do this you need to play with your dog, gradually decreasing the time spent for playing until you reach the 10-minute mark without your pooch feeling left out.
When you go to the park, your pet will no longer be alone with you. You will already have your baby. Bringing a baby car seat or even a bassinet should help your dog understand that this is now the new normal. It will have to learn to share the attention you give to it with the little one. You can also train your dog on how to properly approach the baby doll. It should not go up to the bassinet and lick the baby doll.
Promote a Calm and Safe Place
Some pet parents call these ‘success stations’, although most call them as ‘safe zones’. These are areas where your dog can feel happy, calm, and relaxed while separating it from your new baby. This setup is only for pet parents who are wary about bringing their dogs closer to their new babies.
You can use dog gates in certain sections of your house that you don’t want your dog to venture into. For example, you don’t want it going inside your bedroom or even your baby’s nursery. You can leave the door open but since dog gates effectively serve as a barrier between the two spaces, your pet learns that it cannot go inside.
Alternatively, you can train your dog to love its crate. For some pet parents putting dogs in crates is like punishing them in cages. But this is hardly the case as the dog crate is designed to be a safe, comfortable, and secure place for dogs to stay in. If you haven’t crate-trained your dog, now’s a good time to do it before you bring home your new baby. Crate-training dogs can be made especially easy with the use of the correct tools such as praises, treats, and dog’s favorite toys. Putting your dog’s favorite toy inside its crate will give it the reassurance that it’s the best place to be.
Getting your pet a comfy dog bed can also help. Like all things, you have to train your hound in using the bed. It is important that it looks at the dog bed as a comfortable place to rest and feel relaxed and calm. The good thing about a dog bed is that you can easily move it from one location to another. You may want to place it just outside the dog gate to your baby’s nursery or even inside its dog crate.
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Have Someone Look after Your Dog While You’re in the Hospital
Depending on the type of childbirth you will be having, you might be out of your house for a few days. It is often a good idea to have someone really look after the needs of your pet. It can be a relative or a friend or someone who is professionally trained to sit and handle dogs.
It is important that you plan this well ahead of time. If possible, have this person come over your house a few weeks before your expected date of delivery so you can show him or her what your dog really needs. The important thing to realize here is that even though you’re giving birth, your dog’s daily routine should never be broken.
Plan Your Baby’s Arrival at Your Home
If it’s already your due date, you might want to put all the baby items in a bag. Consider putting one item each in one bag. The idea is to bring home one of these items that your baby has used while he or she is still in the hospital. For example, your baby will be using a onesie or perhaps even a booty once he is delivered. Since you and your baby will still be staying at the birthing center or the hospital for a day or two, let your spouse or someone you can trust bring these ‘baby-used items’ home.
Once your partner gets home and just before entering the door, he needs to attach a baby item to his belt loop or anywhere on its body where your dog can smell it. Your dog’s natural reaction is to be excited about the arrival of your spouse. It will also smell your baby’s scent on the baby item. It will associate this smell with the happy emotion that it feels.
The baby item can also be rubbed onto your dog’s favorite toy or even a toy ball. When you play fetch or it plays with the toy, it naturally associates the baby scent with something very pleasant. Alternatively, you can place the baby item under the food bowl of your pet. Once your dog eats, it will smell the baby scent and again associate it with pleasant things.
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Your Baby’s First Day at Home
Expect a lot of kisses and a really excited hound when you come home from the hospital. If your dog was prepared and acclimatized to the scent of your baby, it will be very happy to see you both. Even before you enter your home, let your husband hold your new baby as your dog will simply be overjoyed on seeing you again. Always greet your dog first but do it in a warm and calm manner. Getting overly excited yourself will only add up to your pet’s rambunctious behavior.
Let its excitement subside before you head over to your baby. By the time your dog is fully relaxed, introduce your dog to your new baby. Let it sniff and smell the little one. If it was prepared well prior to your arrival, it should be more than happy to welcome the new addition to your home.
When nursing your baby make sure to prepare some really delicious treats for your pet, too. Your partner can hand these out to your dog while you’re nursing your baby. Dogs somehow do get the idea that nursing is an intimate moment so they will try to be as calm as possible. If they get rewarded with highly nutritious and really delicious treats while you’re nursing, they will learn to associate this with very positive feelings.
Supervising Your Baby and Your Pet
Your supervision is important while your baby is growing. If you cannot keep an eye on your baby and your pet at the same time, now’s the time to use those pet safe zones we’ve mentioned earlier. Putting dog gates in your nursery’s doorway or even telling your pet to go to its crate or dog bed should come in handy during those instances when you simply cannot supervise both. Having plenty of dog interactive toys also helps.
If you can supervise both your baby and your pet at the same time, you can use the different commands you have trained your pet to follow. ‘Sit’, ‘stay’, and ‘back’ should really come in handy if you want your dog to stay in its place or to back off when told to do so.
By the time your baby is crawling and ready to explore his or her world, it is often a good idea to show to your baby how to pet your dog. More often than not, your baby will mimic your actions. More importantly, your dog will thank you for it because it knows that the new baby is not going to needlessly pull on your pet’s coat, ears, or tail.
It’s also a good idea to keep your dog’s food bowl secure when it’s not feeding time. A highly mobile baby, one who has learned the joys of crawling, can get onto your dog’s food bowl and try its contents. Some dogs also tend to be quite territorial when it comes to food. So keep the food bowl on your countertop when it’s not time for your dog’s dinner.
For pet parents, bringing a new baby to your home can be both exciting and frightening at the same time. It’s exciting because you’ve got a new member in your family and one who’s going to call you mom and dad for as long as you live. It’s frightening, too, since you simply don’t know how your pet dog that has been with you through all the years will react to this new addition. Thankfully, you can always prepare for it. As a matter of fact, you’ve got nine months to get your pet dog ready for its new role as an older pet sibling.
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- Lisa Fields, Prepping Your Pet for Your New Baby, WebMD
- Kimberly Zapata, Before You Bring Home Baby, Here’s How to Prep Your Pets, Healthline
- Dogs and Babies, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
- Denise Flaim, Introducing Your Dog to Your New Baby, The American Kennel Club