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How to Prepare Your Dog for the Arrival of a Baby

 by jaime on 12 Jul 2014 |
1 Comment(s)
If you are expecting a baby, congratulations! The next nine months are going to be full of discovery and lots of preparation. In between stocking up on diapers and decorating the baby's nursery - remember to turn your attention to your first baby, your fur-baby, because just like you, the addition of a baby into their life is a massive change.

The thought of introducing a newborn to a dog, can induce anxiety in any expecting parent (not to mention family and friends), but it doesn't have to be a terrifying experience. So don't despair - you won't have to relegate your dog to the backyard for all of eternity, nor do you have to give them up for adoption (like some people unfortunately do) - with lots of careful planning and plenty of dedication, your dog and new baby could be set to become the best of pals.

Before baby is born:

Don't be surprised if you notice that your dog has already picked up on the fact that you're expecting. Dogs are incredibly intuitive and will be able to sense that change is occurring. However, just because they have sensed something, doesn't mean they know how to behave. The sooner you start training and teaching your dog how to learn to live with a new baby, the better.
  • Make a designated space in your home, just for your dog, such as the laundry or a crate. Make sure it's stocked with everything they need and enjoy: food, water, toys and a blanket. This will now be their special place where they can escape to when they need to calm down or need a break from baby.
  • At the same time, get your pal used to not have full access to all parts of your home. Create a dog-free zone and separate it by using gates - the sooner you do this the sooner they will get used to not being able to go into those rooms.
  • Make sure your dog's obedience is up to scratch by teaching them to sit, and particularly, not to jump up on you, the furniture and anyone who will be holding the baby.
  • Set up furniture for the baby as early as you can so your dog becomes used to it and accepts it as part of the home.
  • If possible, borrow a friends baby to take out walking in a stroller with your dog, so they get used to the routine.
  • Consider what your new routine might be like once baby is born. Will you still be taking your dog for its daily walk, do you plan to take afternoon naps, will your dog be fed at different or at random times? Slowly start transitioning into your new routine so your dog doesn't get a rude shock once baby is home.
  • If you will no longer be walking your dog, start getting the new walker to take your dog out a couple of times a week so they become used to their new walking companion.
  • Invest in a baby noises CD that you can start playing to help get your dog used the sound of babies crying.
  • Start carrying around a pretend bundle that mimics a real baby all wrapped up in blankets. Carry it around, put it in the crib, rest it on your knee. It's another useful way to get your dog almost bored of all of these new changes so by the time your real baby comes home they won't be particularly fazed.
  • Teach your dog that some toys are not to be touched. This is where obedience training comes in handy. Teach them to give up toys on command by using 'leave it.' Remember to never chase your dog when they have a baby toy in possession because that will signal a game to them. Always reward with treats when they do as commanded.
  • A big no-no is lavishing your dog with lots and lots of extra attention before the baby arrives - while intentions are good it will only upset your dog further when the baby does come home. A better approach is to remember to schedule in lots of play time and cuddle sessions.
Before you bring baby home:

At this point, pretty much all of your preparation should be done and your dog is calm and content with all the changes that have taken place. Once the baby is born, but before it comes home, arrange for your partner, family member or friend to take an item of clothing that has been worn by the baby and bring it to your dog. Allow your dog to sniff it, but only at a distance whilst the item is being held. They become used to the baby's scent and also learn that it (the baby) does not belong to them and that they will have to follow your rules around it.

After baby has come home:

It's so exciting and scary bringing a new baby home for the first time. It's also the first time your dog will be meeting your little bundle of joy - so this first experience needs to count. The basic aim of all of this is positive association (and lifelong friendship!)
  • Before introducing baby and pooch, take your dog for a long walk - it will use up some of their energy. Before coming back into your home make sure your dog is completely calm. Also make sure everyone else present is calm as dogs easily pick up on any uneasy feelings.
  • Whoever is holding the dog should have them on a short lead as you enter the room that the baby is in. Whoever is holding the baby should be calmly sat down with the baby on their knee and some dog treats close by.
  • Upon entering the room, your dog will instantly pick up on the new scent and if you've done your preparation, will recognise it.
  • Allow the dog to calmly approach and sniff near the baby - generally not too close the first time round. Once they are satisfied they'll walk away. If your pooch gets a little too close for comfort it's ok to use your hands to keep your dog's nose away.
  • Remember to give lots of praise and treats.
  • At each subsequent encounter, allow your dog to come a little bit closer until they are completely used to and unfazed by your baby.
What happens next?

If you've done all of this preparation then chances are your two babies will grow very fond of each other. As your baby grows you will have to teach them to respect your dog and not to bother them by yanking their tail or pulling their ears. The toddler years will be quite challenging so it may also be worth your while teaching your dog to get used to being handled by a baby, because it's inevitable that once your child reaches their discovery age they'll want to discover your dog like they never have before! And never, NEVER leave your dog and child unsupervised.

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Comment(s)1

Danny - Comment
Danny14 Jul 2014Reply
Interesting read. When I was pregnant with my first child, Sara I used a book called Tell Your Dog You're Pregnant: An essential guide for dog owners who are expecting a baby. It was really helpful and came with a baby sounds and toy noises. Max (my fur child!) took some time to get used to the sounds but the book helped on how to do it. It gave me advice on what changes will occur and how to prepare my Max for them. It also talked about the causes for aggression and why it might occur and how to avoid it. It is written by a vet behaviorist too so it cover health issues as well - I got it from www.babyandpet.com.au or Amazon too i guess - mayb that will help someone else!

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