First and foremost, congratulations on the impending arrival of your new bundle of joy. There are many first-time parents that worry bringing a baby home will disturb their dogs, whom many have treated as a first-born.
Our dogs are very keen on our feelings and can sense when we are anxious about an upcoming event. If you are pregnant, your dog has already sensed a difference. When expecting a baby, you should understand your dog is fully aware of your emotions, and their behavior may have already changed a little bit since you learned you were expecting. They may now seem to favor the pregnant parent – laying closer than usual to the person, following them into every room as to keep a close eye out. Or, maybe they are trending to favor other parent because they are spending more time with them since they are the one taking them for walks, playing fetch, etc.
The most important thing to remember is this time will bean adjustment for everyone, including your pup. However, there are steps to take to make it an easier adjustment for all involved – here are some tips for preparing your dog for the baby’s arrival.
- Work on bad habits or behavior issues now. If your dog has any bad habits, you should start working on them immediately. If your dog jumps when he is excited, for example, this is something he will continue if not remedied, and could result in injury to a baby or toddler. If your dog has anxiety problems, these could be amplified once the baby comes home, so nipping it in the bud before baby gets here is important.
- Slowly adjust your routine and schedule. You’ve heard it from everyone and it’s currently the plot of all of your nightmares, but it is true, a baby will greatly disrupt any routine or schedule you had prior to their arrival. It will be a shock to you, and it will be just as great of a shock for your dog. If your dog is used to being let outside to do its business as soon as your feet hit the floor, start slowly drawing this out by brushing your teeth first or maybe getting a cup of coffee before heading outside. Soon, you will be attending to your baby’s needs first, and letting your dog out to use the bathroom as soon as you rise may not be an option. Prepare your pet to expect a little variance in schedule so they don’t begin acting out when the schedule gets thrown off.
- Get them used to the sound of crying. While the sound of a newborn’s cry doesn’t require earplugs, once they find their voice it can be utterly painful to listen to. Now, imagine you have impeccable hearing like your pup – it could be quite alarming. A good way to get them used to the different cries a baby will make is by playing videos of babies actually crying. The more you play this in the background prior to the baby’s arrival, the more likely they will treat it as background noise once they arrive.
- Make the nursery an “off-limits” area. Teach your dog the nursery is not permitted to be entered without you. When you are in the room, show your dog items he is able to smell. This will essentially teach your dog that he is allowed in the room with your supervision. This also teaches him that this is your room as the pack leader and it must be respected as such.
- Monitor your pet with the baby toys and stuffed animals on the ground. Tummy-time is regular activity for infants, and many parents will use rattles, stuffed animals, noisy toys and such to get their baby’s attention. However, it may also peak your dog’s interest as well. Make sure to teach your dog which toys are not theirs and are off-limits. This becomes even more important as the baby gets older, as an infant won’t mind if the dog chews its rattle, however, a toddler can become enraged when their beloved bear is clinched between your pet’s jaw, and will not think twice about going to tug-o-war with the pup, or even pulling on the dog.
- Bring an item from the hospital home. This could be as small as a burp cloth or one of the blankets your baby has been laying on. Encourage your dog to smell the item from a distance at first. Then, give him permission to sniff the item. This essentially tells your dog he is not allowed near the item without your permission. This will be helpful when your baby arrives.
- Exercise your dog and make sure he is calm. Take your dog for a walk prior to the introduction, and be sure they’ve had enough time to wind down.
- Let Mom enter the house first. Usually this is the mother’s first time home since the birth, and its likely the other parent has run home to shower, catch some sleep or bring home presents from the various well-wishers, so your dog will most likely want to eagerly greet Mom and wonder why she’s been away. Let Mom show the pup she missed them as well, and give some much wanted love and affection.
- Bring in baby. When the baby enters the house, your dog will know there is something different about the scent. Since you have already brought an item home, they will recognize this scent. The dog should be permitted to sniff the baby from a distance. You can gradually decrease this distance apart with time. This will teach your dog that the baby is also a pack leader.
If you are not completely confident in how your dog will act with your baby’s arrival, you should consult a professional to ensure the safety of your baby with your dog. The professional may be able to help. As a parent, one of the most rewarding things is seeing the friendship grow and mutual love a dog and child can have.
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