Preparing Your Dog For the New Baby!

Many of us consider our dogs our babies, however sometimes life changes and we decide to bring a human family member into our homes! These life changes are immense for us and we have the capability to talk them through and process them with our spouses, family, friends and loved ones. Your dog, however, is pretty clueless to what is going on and only knows his usual routines. Sudden changes in his life can cause confusion and upset. We want the arrival of your newborn to be a happy time for everyone – two- and four-legged alike! Here is a guide to your expanding family and how you can make the transitions go as smoothly as possible.

Take Preemptive Steps – As soon as you find out you are expecting (or adopting!) start working on basic obedience commands with your dog. You’re going to want to brush up on “sit”, “down” and “stay”. The most important issues to combat are jumping up, pulling and over excitement. As harmless as these may seem now, think about how they may manifest during that third trimester or when you have a newborn in your arms. If your dog has any issues with mouthing (nipping) seek the help of a professional behaviorist beforehand. The more time you have to work with your dog before your baby arrives, the better shape you will be in.

Make Routine Changes Early – The arrival of a new baby in the house means an end to your dogs usual routines. Instead of springing this on him at the same time as all of the other HUGE changes in his life, you can soften the blow by trying to adjust his schedule gradually. If you think you’ll be getting up earlier or eliminating one of your long walks in the afternoons (at least in the beginning), start weaning him before baby comes.

Just Say No To Stuffies – If your dog likes stuffed toys, you may want to consider weaning him onto other kinds of toys. With babies comes many stuffed animals and to prevent confusion (and the chewing of the baby’s toys) it is better to avoid allowing your dog to play with objects that look similar. If your dog simply can’t part with their stuffies, understand that some of the human ones may be causalities if they end up on the floor. You can’t blame your pooch for not knowing the difference.

Handle Him Like The Baby Will – Get your dog used to the prodding hands of a baby by pulling, pushing and touching him in different ways during petting sessions – all gently, of course! Use lots of treats and praise because he is sure to find this quite strange! If he ever reacts aggressively to this type of handling seek help from a behaviorist.

Set Restrictions Now – If you are going to change any rules about where your dog is allowed and where he isn’t, set those boundaries before the arrival of the baby. This way he doesn’t associate the changes with the newest family member. Decide if he is going to be allowed in the nursery and if not, purchase a baby gate and start utilizing it before baby arrives home.

Get a “Training Baby” – Purchase a life-sized baby doll and carry it around as you would an infant. Practice some of the routines you expect to do with the new baby and see how your dog reacts. This is an especially good test to see how your dog reacts to something small being held in your arms.

Walking Everyone Together – Learning to push a baby carriage and walk a dog at the same time comfortably can be a task. Some dogs are afraid of the large rolling object that is suddenly next to them! Start walking your dog with your spouse or a friend. Have them push the empty carriage and praise and treat your dog. As your dog becomes accustomed to its presence, take over carriage duties and continue to praise and treat as needed. Make this a part of your daily routine. It is crucial to have your dog used to this before your baby arrives home.

Get Him Used To The Noise - There is a CD of baby sounds that you can play to get your dog accustomed to the noises that your baby will make. If your dog is chewing on a favorite toy or bone you can turn this CD up so he will associate the noises with positive things. These are real recordings of infants and toddlers. This disc contains laughing, cooing, gurgling and crying as well as a bonus temper tantrum!

When The Big Day Comes – Bring home some blankets that the baby has worn for your dog to sniff, that way he can get used to the scent of the new family member before it comes home.

Bringing Baby Home – Make the grand entrance as stress free as possible. Enter the house without the baby and let your dog greet you (you know he’ll have missed you!). Once he has settled down a bit have another family member come in with the baby. Remember that dogs pick up on your emotions. If you are tense about the greeting they will think that something is wrong – try to stay as relaxed and calm as possible.

Baby Talk Is a No-No – High pitched voices and strange noises are very appealing to your dog and can cause him to become overexcited. Try to avoid this kind of talk in the presence of your dog because he is likely to think it is directed towards him.

Remember that this new family member may be the biggest joy in your life, but your dog didn’t have a say in this decision and it all seems rather sudden to him! He may act out and even regress with obedience training. Be patient and give him as much attention and quality time as you can. Also, remember that no dog, no matter how much they love children, should EVER be left alone with an infant. He is still an animal and, even without intention, could hurt a small baby.

The relationship between children and dogs is truly special, and being able to watch that friendship from day one is amazing. With careful preparation on your part, your dog and baby will be well on their way to a beautiful friendship.

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