Getting Your Dog Ready for Baby
By Michelle – Pride and Joy Dog Training
Well, it has finally happened! You are changing from a family of two to a family of three…and I don’t mean you are getting a new dog! There is a baby on the way and you’re not sure how your dog is going to react to the new family member.
I know from experience that some dogs can detect a baby in your belly way before a traditional pregnancy test. My dog became much more protective of me and would always sleep with his head on my tummy (which, my very aloof dog has never done before) weeks before I officially knew I was pregnant. Dogs are very sensitive to hormone changes and can sense the difference in you even if you haven’t yet. Whether your dog is aware from the get-go or is a little more oblivious to all the changes going on around him, you will have to get him ready for what is coming.
If your dog has never been around small children before you will need to get him used to the sights and sounds of babies. A great idea is to take him for a walk near a park or field where children play so your dog can hear them while he is being exercised, this will show your dog that children aren’t something to fear, good things can happen when they are around! You can also find recordings online to play of children playing and babies crying to help your dog become accustomed to having a noisy home.
It is great to start a new routine of taking your dog for a nice, long walk while you are still pregnant and then continuing it once baby has arrived. Your dog will need to know that even though he may not be number 1 in your heart anymore, he is still important to you and exercise is that best way to show him that. You can also start walking your dog with the stroller before baby arrives so you aren’t trying to get your dog used to a stroller and worrying about your newborn at the same time. You may want to start by walking your dog in a heel for a while and then once you are confident in his heel, add the stroller and then get your dog to heel. A heeling dog is much easier to walk with a stroller then a dog that is running around, pulling at the leash and bumping into the stroller.
You should also work on basic obedience with your dog before baby arrives because being able to control your dog with commands will come in very handy when your hands are full. If your dog already knows basic commands, make sure they are solid and then start adding in distractions. Training with distractions will be a life saver as life with babies is full of distractions! Make sure your dog will sit or lie down and stay for extended periods of time because when baby comes home you will want to make sure your dog sits (or lies down) before being introduced to the baby and before any other interaction with baby after that. If your dog is jumping and out of control, leave the room and do not introduce the baby until the dog has calmed down.
Many dogs have toys and stuffed animals that they play with, which may start to get confusing when you start adding in baby toys and stuffies. Your dog may think that all these new toys are for him, as they always have been before! I recommend cutting your dog toy collection down considerably to a few main toys that are his favourites, these are your dogs toys, any other toys in his mouth are a no-no. You will need to work with your dog in the months before baby’s arrival on determining which toys are acceptable to play with and which are off limits. A great exercise to help your dog to understand is by giving your dog the option to take the toy, if he goes for it, take it away before the dog can take it and say a firm “No!”, then try again; give him the option to take it and take it away if he goes for it. It may take your dog a few tries to understand but they will eventually get it. When your dog does not go for the toy or looks to you first then say “Good dog!” and praise, praise, praise and use your dog’s toy as a reward to play with! Your dog will slowly begin to understand what is ok to play with and what is not a chew toy.
One of the most stressful days of your life as a parent will be your first day home from the hospital as a family and your dog adding to the stress is not helpful, I will continue with tips in my next article. It will cover what to do once baby is born and at home. Please be aware that if you are stressed while working with your dog, your dog will feel it and in turn, also become stressed. This is a new experience for everyone, including your dog, and it may take him a little time to become accustomed to your new life and routine, just as it will take you some time to get used to being a parent.
Pride and Joy Dog Training
Michelle is a graudate of Ben Kersen and the Wonderdogs Professional Dog Trainers Program and currently resides in Edmonton, Alberta with her husband, toddler and husky!