Whether human or canine, planning for a new arrival is an exciting time for all involved. However, when a new baby is on the way, how do you prepare your dog for a change in family circumstances? We’ve got some great advice on how to try and ensure your pup is ready to share.
Imagine this scenario. You and your partner live alone happily until one day you begin to feel like something is missing. Eventually, you realise there is a furry dog shaped hole in your lives which you decide to fill. You buy or rescue a dog who becomes your best friend, and in turn the two of you become your dog’s whole world. However, after many blissful months or years of it being just the three of you, a smelly naked little pink thing comes screaming in to that same world and forces your dog to share his home, his garden, his time and most of all, his parents.
There is an overwhelming amount of information online providing advice on how to ease this transition for your dog. Here at Tailster we know preparing your home and lives for a new baby can be such a hectic time; the last thing you want to do is spend hours online rifling through pages and pages of online articles. Here are some of the best tips, tricks and advice we have found which will hopefully help you prepare yourselves for your new family.
1. Training and Obedience
Now, no-one expects your dog to be the next Lassie, but it is important that he or she has some basic training in preparation for when a little ear-tugger comes along. At the very least your dog should understand and obey sit, stay, drop it, down and wait. This allows you to control the situation when your baby and your dog are together, as well as establishing some ground rules for your dog which can help him feel more comfortable and structured amidst all these changes. Your dog needs to know to be careful around the baby, and also needs to listen and follow instructions eg. ‘drop it’ is useful to teach your dog if you don’t want him picking up the baby’s toys/bedding/dirty nappies and ‘down’ ensures your dog doesn’t jump up at any point, which could be dangerous if you were carrying the baby.
It is never too late to get started with training if you and your dog haven’t done any before – even the simplest skills are invaluable when you need to keep your baby, and your dog, happy.
2. New Rules
If your dog has previously had the run of the house, especially if he is allowed on the furniture, you may wish to introduce changes as soon as possible before the baby arrives. If you are planning on restricting access to the baby’s room, you need to keep the door shut at all times or install a baby gate that is an appropriate size to keep your dog out. When the baby first comes home there will be lots of exciting new smells and noises which they may want to investigate. If your dog is already accustomed to not being allowed in that room, they are less likely to scratch at the baby’s door or cause a fuss whenever anyone goes in.
You may also want to keep your dog in a separate room during meal times if you have not done so previously; this will ensure they are not scavenging baby food or disturbing the atmosphere during feeding times. All dogs respond differently to a new living situation but it is important to implement any rules you plan to change in advance to provide your dog time to adjust to the disruption.
3. Change in Routine
A new baby also comes with a new routine. There may be early mornings, afternoon naps and night-time feeds. All of these changes will not only affect your daily schedule, but also that of your dog. Try gradually introducing their walk at a different times of the day before your baby is born. If your dog does not have a specific walking time, he is less likely to become restless or agitated when the formulation of his day is changed. If you plan to sleep whenever your baby is sleeping, start trying to go for a nap in the afternoon with the door closed to prepare your dog.
One of the biggest changes may be if you currently work full time and you plan to take leave after the baby is born. Your dog will not be used to you being around all the time and will probably thoroughly enjoy the company. However, you must try not let them become too needy as this will worsen the separation process if you go back to work. While you are at home, try and go out with the baby (but without the dog) at least once a day. Even if it is just for fifteen minutes, this will re-accustom your dog to not always being by your side.
4. Little Introductions
For many dogs, babies and small children are a whole other race. They are loud, messy, sometimes rough, and can cause a lot of unintentional stress for your animals. It is vitally important that when you bring your new baby home, that is not the first time your dog has met a child. A great way to prepare your dog for your new human pup is to introduce him or her to friends’ children or small children in your extended family. It is often better to do this in a neutral setting like a park or garden; if a child comes in to your home your dog may get territorial if they are not accustomed to kids. Keep them on a lead if necessary and praise gentle and good behaviour. Once your dog has shown they can behave in public, you can consider babysitting in to your own home.
It is important that your dog has it’s own space, whether that be a room, cage or bed, that it can retreat to if it feels annoyed or scared. You must respect this and prevent children from bothering the dog while he is in his safe place – this will prevent any avoidable anger or frustration from the dog. The best practice is to make sure your child knows not to be rough with your dog but, just in case, you should ensure your dog is accustomed to being touched all over his body. Try gently tugging his ears and tail, touching the pads on his feet, softly stroking his fur the wrong way and tickling his tummy: these are all things that a toddler is likely to try at some point so your dog needs to know how to walk away.
5. Sounds and Smell
Babies, just like all young animals, not only come equipped with cute faces and big eyes, but also a host of smells and noises that may overwhelm your furry companion. Dirty nappies, baby food, wet wipes and talcum powder are probably all very exciting new smells, but the last thing a new parent needs is a nosey dog poking around the changing bag every time you’re planning an outing. Make sure you introduce your dog to these smells before the baby comes, and keep all the baby’s things somewhere out of reach. If your dog will not be allowed in the baby’s room, store most things in there so he associates baby products with restricted access.
One way of introducing your dog to the baby before they meet is by allowing your dog to sniff a blanket which you wrap your new born baby in. You can bring this home and allow your dog to investigate and familiarise himself with the smell before your baby comes home. However, do not let your dog chew, play with or keep this blanket: there must be a clear definition between baby and chew toy.
Dogs who are unaccustomed to child noise can become agitated, frustrated, and in some cases aggressive when confronted with this sensory overload. One idea Tailster found was to buy (or make) a CD full of baby sounds like crying, gurgling, laughing and screaming. This way you can play the CD while your dog is in the house so he gets used to the sounds of a baby being around. Of course, we are not suggesting you play it full volume like some sort of immersion therapy, but just having it on in the background may help your dog grow used to the noise.
If you feel you need additional help, you can find plenty of qualified professionals online who specialise in baby preparation for your dog. Although it is difficult to predict how a dog will react to living with a child if they never have before, these small changes we have suggested can all help ease any uncertainty and help your family live together harmoniously.
If you ever need a sitter or boarder, or even someone to take the dog out for a walk to give you a little alone time, Tailster is here to help. Just type in your postcode and sign up to find local certified sitters in your area.
Not having a baby but thinking of getting a puppy instead? Read this great article on how to prepare your dog for a new pup!
Want more doggy content like this? Click here and find out why we think dogs are great for kids.