Do you have a baby on the way?
There are a lot of things to consider when you’re expecting, including preparing a nursery, purchasing a pram, car seat and cot, baby clothes and much more.
But if you’re pregnant or your partner is expecting and you own dogs, you shouldn’t forget that you’ll need to prepare your canine companion for the arrival of your baby.
It’s a good idea to train your dog to enhance your chances of a smooth introduction process.
You should never leave a baby, toddler or young child unsupervised with a dog no matter how well behaved you may think your four-legged friend is.
We spoke to experts to hear their suggestions on the different ways to prepare your dog for a baby.
Set The Tone
Brandon Werber, Founder And CEO of Airvet
Make sure to give your dog the proper training well in advance so that there is a smooth transition once your baby is born.
A mild-mannered dog is essential for the security of a newborn. This can consist of setting boundaries, establishing authority, and creating a reward system.
Additionally, be mindful of your energy when around both the dog and baby at the same time. Be consistent, and don’t neglect your pet as they can become jealous.
They may be accustomed to being the center of attention, and a significant shift can drastically affect their mood.
Lastly, set the tone from the start. Your dog will sense that the baby is a special addition to the family and inherently understand the nature of the situation.
However, you can do many things to minimize the chance of discord and acting out by remaining poised, staying attentive to your dog, and creating a secure environment for them both to coexist.
Don’t Forget About Your Dogs
Dr Sara Ochoa, DVM And Vetinary Writer At DogLab.com
• Anticipation is key – You have 9 months to prepare for the big arrival, so make the most out of them! Start by reinforcing your dog’s training, or start training them if you haven’t. Learning how to follow the basic commands will help you strengthen the owner-dog relationship, and ensure you a well-behaved dog.
• Introduce the new items and dynamics before the baby arrives – Let your dog sniff the crib, chairs, stroll, and even some baby toys. If you let them know what those items are way before the baby comes home, they will feel more comfortable around those objects. The same thing with the baby’s room, and other spaces you may need to be dog-free, establish the barriers a couple of months before, so your pet won’t be in such shock once the baby is home.
• Don’t forget about them – Pregnancy comes along with many changes, so make your best effort to keep your dog’s routines, don’t forget to walk, play, and give them positive reinforcements. You can even change your dog’s walk times, so they can get used to the flexibility without losing that crucial time to burn energy.
• Introduce the baby’s scent beforehand – Ask someone from your family to bring a piece of clothing with the baby’s scent before you all come home. Let the dog smell (only smell) and give positive reinforcement. That way they will recognize the scent beforehand.
Never Force Interactions
Kate LaSala, CTC, CBCC-KA, PCBC-A, CSAT And Owner Of Rescued By Training
The most important thing I advise clients is to never force any dog/baby interactions.
Never put your baby in your dog’s face and don’t put the baby carrier on the floor for your dog to sniff. This isn’t safe, and with their incredible sense of smell, your dog doesn’t need that close proximity to smell your baby.
Use lots of management like baby gates to ensure safety for the baby and provide your dog a safe retreat. Many dogs find babies scary – they’re loud, unpredictable, and move in unusual ways.
The arrival of a baby also disrupts the dog’s normal schedule for feeding and exercise so I advise clients to get on a baby-friendly schedule ahead of delivery, to help the dog transition to eating and going at different times.
Never leave baby and dog unattended in the same space – not even for a few seconds. Active, adult supervision is essential at all times.
Tidy up obedience skills like down/stay on a mat before the baby’s arrival. If your dog can hold a down/stay with distractions like you walking around soothing a baby or sitting on the floor for tummy time, then the dog can more safely be included and be around. If however, your dog immediately comes over to you if you sit on the floor, then this isn’t safe for baby during tummy time.
Practice Training With A Baby Doll
Heather Gibbs, CPDT-KA, SBA Business Manager And Behavior Consultant Courteous Canine
Make a plan to gradually train your dog in anticipation of your baby’s arrival. Your dog will experience new sights, sounds, smells, and will likely experience a change in their usual schedule when your baby arrives. All of these sudden changes may cause stress to your dog. To help reduce these stressors, begin gradually introducing these new schedule changes before your baby arrives.
Consider enlisting the help of an in-home pet sitting or dog walking professional to help maintain your dog’s exercise and play routines during the first few weeks of your baby’s arrival. This can help to reduce your dog’s stress during this time.
There are several helpful behaviors for your dog to know: Behaviors like sit, down, come, stay, leave it, and drop it can be incredibly helpful for any pup to know. These behaviors are particularly beneficial when communicating with your dog around a new baby.
Consider seeking the help of a certified professional trainer to work on accomplishing these training goals. Qualified professionals will use positive reinforcement training methods and maintain certification through leading professional organizations, such as the Pet Professional Guild.
Practice training with a baby doll. While your pup may not recognize a baby doll in the same way as they will your child, the doll can be a help during the training process above. By allowing your dog to practice cues such as down, stay, and leave it while you are holding and moving the doll, you are setting your dog up for success for the future. These distractions should only be added to training sessions gradually, when your pup has a strong understanding of their obedience cues without distractions present.
Create positive associations to new sights, sounds, and smells. Pair positive experiences for your dog, like play time and tasty treats, with new items and smells. Food can be one of the strongest ways to improve a dog’s response to new things, like a stroller or crib. Play sounds found online of babies crying at a low volume while engaging your dog in positive play and treat games. If your dog appears distressed by any of these exercises, reduce the difficulty and seek the guidance from a qualified, professional positive trainer.
Give your dog their own space and restrict the child’s access to their toys and food. Baby gates and pens can be helpful ways to give your dog and child their own space during meal times and play time. Children should always be supervised and never left unattended with your dog. As your child grows older, children should be taught to leave your dog’s toys and food bowls alone. If you experience any behavior concerns with your dog guarding their resources, seek the help of a qualified positive trainer immediately for a personalized training and management plan.
Give your dog puzzle feeder toys, like a “snuffle mat” or KONG dog toy, filled with tasty treats and food items. This is a great way for any pup to exercise their mind and help relax them. These items should only be given to your dog out of reach from your new baby.
Give your pup some love and attention! Welcoming a new baby into your home comes with its own stressors and excitement for everyone. Have patience with your dog and be sure to provide them with lots of comfort and attention. If you experience any behavior or training concerns with your pup during this transition, seek the help of a certified, positive trainer.
Consider Crate Training
Rick Allen, Obedience Specialist At The Pampered Pup
It can be an exciting time when you are expecting a baby – unless you are the family dog. Your dog can likely can tell something is up from the changes you’re making to the house, along with the mood and hormonal changes their humans are experiencing. Just make sure you include your family dog in your baby preparation plan so they too can be prepared for your little one’s arrival.
• Start to Prepare Your Dog – Do not delay in preparing your dog for your baby’s arrival. You want your dog to be as comfortable as possible with all the changes that will be happening when your baby comes home from the hospital. Since you won’t be able to help your dog with all these changes and your new baby at the same time, it’s important to make sure you start the adjustment period a few weeks, or months, before your baby’s due date.
• Obedience Training – Dogs that are well-mannered and know basic commands are easier to control, which will make your life easier as you care for the needs of a newborn. If your dog has any annoying or dangerous behavior problems, it’s important to work on them before the baby arrives. This includes destructive and aggressive behavior as well as barking that can wake the baby. It can be helpful to engage an animal behaviorist or trainer to work with your dogs to stop these behaviors.
• Consider Crate Training – A crate can provide a safe place for your dog where they can escape from the baby when he or she wants. It also provides a safe place for you to confine your pet when you don’t want them underfoot. Even if they haven’t been crated before, it can be a benefit to them once the baby comes home.
• Introduce Your Dog to Babies – It’s important to introduce your dog to the new smells and sounds that come with a baby. Many dogs have never been around a baby, and the new sounds and smells can be very overwhelming for them. Also, right after the baby is born, make sure to bring home one of the baby’s blankets to introduce your dog to the baby’s scent before you bring the baby home.
• Change Your Routine – Don’t let everything change at once when the baby comes home or your dog will be resentful. Make any small changes beforehand like walking and feeding schedules so you can prepare them in advance. You will also want to gradually spend less time with your dog so it won’t be such a shock after the baby’s arrival.
The Key Is To Introduce Them Gradually
Dr Carol Osborne, DVM at Chagrin Falls Pet Clinic
Expecting a new baby can change a lot of things, including your adult dog’s behavior. His position in your family will change and you don’t want him to blame the baby. Make as many changes in your home environment and your dog’s routine as early as you can.
If certain areas of your home will be off limits, like the nursery, establish that now. It’s also a good idea to teach your dog the difference between his toys and the baby’s. For dogs that have trouble differentiating between certain toys, use scent recognition to teach them the difference – put a dab of Listerine on the baby’s toys, truss the scented baby toy and a dog toy then play the game which one is yours? Playing this game once a week, most dogs learn the difference within a month.
The sound of a crying baby also upsets a lot of adult dogs, so it’s a good idea to desensitize your dog to the sounds before the baby arrives. Use a tape of a baby crying, put it in the crib, turn it on and see how your dog reacts. Some experts recommend that you go so far as to get a doll and rehearse various activities that you’ll actually perform with the baby in the dog’s presence. When your dog acts indifferently to the crying or the particular activity, he is desensitized.
Finally, when the big day arrives, dad should wait in the car with the baby while mom goes inside and greets the dog. Once the initial excitement is over, she should put the dog on a leash and have him sit or lie next to her while dad enters with the baby in his arms. Mom then slowly walks the dog toward the baby and dad. If the dog balks, acts nervous or anxious at any point stop and try again later. If all seems fine, let your dog sniff your baby. Most dogs treat babies with indifference and move on.
The key is to introduce them gradually, don’t force it and don’t make a fuss. And no matter how well you know your dog, never leave him alone with your baby. Most dogs adjust quickly to the new addition.