Congratulations! You’ve just found out that you’re expecting an addition to your family. A family, which already includes one child – a child who will forever walk on four legs and has fur, but none-the-less, is still a child.
Believe it or not, preparing your dog for the arrival of a baby is very similar to how you prepare a human child – make changes gradually.
Preparation is Key
The first thing you have to do is eliminate any problem behaviours such as jumping, nipping, food stealing, object guarding and leash pulling. They are not generally acceptable dog behaviours anyway, however, there is nothing worse than trying to have a nice walk, with your new baby in the stroller, and the dog pulling you and the stroller all around the pavement. And if he likes to show his love for people by jumping on them, once your child has learned to stand and walk, he/she will be getting knocked down a lot by the dog – not good.
Which means it is time to reclaim your place as the pack leader, the alpha, the woman-in-charge we were told we had to be way back in puppy school and start to rid your dog of these habits before the baby is born.
With a new baby comes a change in routine, but also a lot of new sounds and smells. Prior to your baby coming home, visit a friend’s house who has just had a baby and record the baby’s crying, screaming, laughing and gurgling sounds. Then play it in the background at your house. This will help your dog get used to baby sounds and not become frightened or confused every time the baby cries. As well, handle babies so you smell like baby lotion, powder and food. Then go straight home and spend some positive time with your dog. Allow him to sniff you and get used to the smells.
Bringing Baby Home
While mum is in the hospital, you can’t forget about your fur baby. Make sure someone is available to care for him during these first few days. As well, when dad comes home, have him bring something back with the baby’s scent on it – like a blanket – for your pet to investigate.
You know when you first step through the door, your dog will be so excited to see you, but won’t jump on you and the baby because he was re-trained to keep all four paws on the ground. Once everyone has said hello, allow your pet to sit near you and the baby and reward it for good/calm behaviour. Never force your pet to get near the baby – let it be gradual. But also never leave the two alone and unsupervised,
No matter how tired and overwhelmed you are as new parents, it is important to not forget about your first child, don’t shout at the dog or banish it to the garden, since you do not want the dog to associate the baby with nervous feelings or alarm.
As well, include, do not exclude, your dog from baby time. Many people will be with the baby while it is awake and ignore the dog. Then pay attention to the dog when baby is sleeping. By playing with dog and baby together, you help re-enforce a positive relationship between the dog and baby, but also between you and your baby and dog.