Adjusting to a household with a baby can be an overwhelming process for a dog – especially if they were the ‘only child’ prior to the baby’s arrival. With all of the attention now on the new baby, your canine companion might start to feel left out and often times they will misbehave to get your attention. Just as having a baby is a huge adjustment to your routine, don’t forget to consider how the new family member will also affect your sweet pup.
Below we offer some tips for first time parents who are also canine parents to get your dog used to its new little human before he or she even arrives.
1. Teach Your Dog the Correct Skills
Most dog owners already have their dogs pretty well trained, but it helps to refresh these skills to make sure they are well received. Does your dog ‘sit’ without question when you ask him? Does he ‘leave it’ when you drop something on the floor? Does he come running to you when you ask him to ‘come’? Whilst these might be basic cues, it’s important to make sure they are locked in, as your life will be a lot easier to manage your dog with a baby in your arms if he is capable of understanding your verbal cues.
2. Make Sure Your Pup Has a Safe Place
Everyone needs his or her own space – dogs included. Does your dog have a quiet place to retreat if the baby is crying the house down? If your dog has not been crate trained, you might think of getting a crate and training him to settle in it. Start out by throwing treats in the crate and letting your dog jump in to get them. When your dog comes out, throw more treats into the crate and close the door, so he cannot get them. He might very well scratch the outside in attempt to enter. Moments later, open the door and let your dog go in to get the treat.
He will quickly learn that a crate is actually a magic place where food falls from the sky and can easily learn to comfortably settle in it when he needs some space. Never put him in his crate when he is being naughty though. The crate should be a positive place where only good things happen.
3. Practice Changes to Your Dog’s Routine
Your dog is most likely settled into a daily routine, which will inevitably be disrupted once the new baby arrives. If you used to take your dog for a walk in the morning, try moving it to the afternoon or the evening in the months leading up to the new baby’s arrival. If you used to feed your dog at 8am on the dot, try feeding him a bit earlier or later. If you can get your dog used to changing his perfect routine, he will be less frustrated when the baby arrives and changes it for him.
4. Consider a Dog Walker or Doggy Daycare
As you are adjusting to life with a newborn, you may very well need to secure the help of professionals to help you out. Your dog will still need a walk and if you just don’t have the time or the energy, why not hire a dog walker or send your pup to doggy daycare? There are plenty of services out there that even collect your dog straight from your home.
If you are short on cash, ask a friend or a neighbor if they might be able to help you out. Other options include Borrow My Doggy or Pawshake. It’s important your dog still gets the exercise he needs or he might get bored and start being destructive to get your attention.
5. Train Your Dog to Be Independent
Dogs thrive on human attention and the guessing is that if you are a dog owner and this is your first baby, your dog is probably pretty spoiled for your attention. Once you find out that you’re pregnant, resist the temptation to overly spoil your pup and gradually reduce your play and cuddle times to get them used to being more independent. The reality is that newborns are a lot of work and you just won’t have the same amount of time you did before to spend with your canine companion whilst you are adjusting.
Consider investing in a few Kongs that you can fill and freeze with fat-free yogurt or peanut butter. Antlers and dog puzzles are also great ways to keep your canine friends busy without needing you right by their side and it also keeps their minds sharp and active.
6. Decide on New Boundaries Early
Do not wait until the new baby arrives to decide that the dog is not allowed in the nursery or that he is no longer allowed on the furniture. You will need to train your dog well before the baby’s arrival. If you do not want the dog in the nursery, train him to sit and wait patiently for you outside of the door. If you no longer want him on the furniture, this will take some time.
Consider buying doggy beds to put near the couch as an alternative napping place or getting some pieces of cosy Vetbed to lay around the house if you have hardwood floors.
7. Introduce Your Dog to the World of Babies
Slowly introduce your dog to baby sights and sounds before the baby even arrives. Let him sniff the pushchair and the car seat. Start using baby lotions and powders so that your dog familiarises himself with these smells. If you have a friend with a baby, try introducing their baby to your dog slowly so that he is not as surprised when you bring your own home.
You can even play YouTube videos of babies screaming to get your dog used to the noise. Make sure to give your dog plenty of treats in the process so that they do not associate the noises or smells negatively. Just as you showed him new experiences when he came home as a puppy, a baby brings a whole set of new experiences.
8. Don’t Forget to Give Your Dog Much Needed Belly Rubs
At the end of the day, your dog is your family member and he still needs to know how much you love him. Don’t forget to give him plenty of belly rubs and reward him for his positive behaviour around the new baby.
By taking the right steps, you can avoid any necessary stress for your beloved pet and create a great family environment for all members – dogs included! Having a baby is a great experience for everyone, so let’s make sure it’s a great one for your canine friend too. In the meantime, you can check out this video of dogs first meeting their new little humans: