Congratulations! A human baby is on its way. You’re probably flat out preparing, buying nappies and other necessities and also setting up the nursery. Unless you’ve had one or more children, a baby care class might be wise too. However, even with all this happening, you must also prepare your pet for this major life change.
Your dog will know something is happening. The pregnant mother will have changes in scent and body, as well as behaviour. Even if you’re adopting or have a surrogate mother, the energy in the house will change and your dog will know it.
Your dog won’t know exactly what’s happening or what’s required of him. The more preparation work you can do with your pet today, the easier it will be for the family once the baby has arrived. These pointers should help.
Get professional help for problem behaviour changes. If your dog is aggressive, that needs to be curbed immediately. Fear and/or separation anxiety may creep in and they still need to be handled. Maximise your time prior to the new arrival when time will be a real premium.
Reinforce limitations, boundaries and rules. Maybe you get a bit lazy over behaviour issues. That was ok then but now it’s not. Small irritations must be addressed so your dog knows they’re no longer acceptable. Be consistent and clear about your expectations of your pet.
Set up safe dog-free baby areas.
Your dog will be banned from the nursery and won’t be allowed to jump up on baby’s playpen. Include those areas in your boundary list. Put your baby’s items out and warn your pet that he must stay off them.
Be wary of excitable behaviour.
Dogs get excited easily, especially around new things and people. Something small now may be serious later so you need to ignore his hyperactive times and reward him when he’s calm.
Establish a new routine.
The care of a baby will drain every drop of energy from your body, especially in the first few months. It will get a bit easier after that but the work won’t stop. This means you’ll have less time for your pets and their routine will also be affected. Get them used to as much as you can before baby is born. Then it will seem a bit easier for you and them. If you have others walking your dogs, start them doing that now.
Buy a jogging stroller or baby carrier.
If you want to walk your dog, get some exercise yourself and bring baby with you, these can help. Practice before baby is added to the mix. Take the stroller or carriage and your dog for walks so he gets used to the added extras.
Get a recording of a baby crying.
Find a track of a baby crying and play it as loud as you can whilst doing your chores. Obviously it’s not the real thing but it will help both you and your beloved pet adjust to the endless noise. You may discover issues your dog has with that sound and can address it before it becomes real.
Expose your pet to children and other babies.
Provided it’s safe, get your pet used to the smells and energies of other babies and children. Seek advice from other parents and children about their experiences and how to teach your dog how to handle different scenarios. You might find some issues you didn’t expect because dogs act very differently to children than to adults.
Some things might be hard to do if you have bouts of nausea as you cope with end stages of pregnancy. Less energy won’t help either. However, the moment baby is born, it gets even harder so begin today and you’ll be thankful you did. If you don’t retrain your pet, you may face the upsetting task of having to find him a new home if he and baby can’t live together.
Be positive about your pet and your baby enjoying life together. Despite the tips here being about preventing potential problems, there will be some amazing moments between your new baby and your beloved pet, both of whom you love equally in different ways.
Your dog may surprise you at how fast he accepts baby as part of the pack. As baby ages, their bond will strengthen. Dogs have an uncanny way of being in tune with the people they live with. Pregnancy is a monumental time in your life and your dog will instinctively sense it. However, he won’t know exactly what’s happening until it happens and even then, it will take some adjusting.
Tips to prepare your dog for the new baby’s arrival.
Leadership should be your focus. You have nine months to handle most problems, anticipate other issues that may occur and iron out unwanted behaviours. You’re the lack leader. If you want help, hire a professional. You’ll realise just how vital the work you put in prior to giving birth will be once baby is home and you see your beloved pet is calm and well-behaved.
Be wary of your own energy levels. Pregnancy doesn’t only affect the mother. Everyone is affected, whether human or animal. You may feel tired, excited, worried, stressed, exhausted and a whole gamut of emotions, many of which your dog will copy.
Claim your baby’s smell. Bring home from hospital something that smells like the baby, for example, a burp cloth. Set boundaries and help your dog get used to the scent. Let him sniff it from a distance first. You’re establishing that it’s your item but you’re giving him permission to sniff it. “This belongs to me and you must obey my rules when you’re around this scent.” This helps to set up a process of creating respect for your baby.
Establish nursery boundaries. Start with off-limit boundaries. Train your pet to understand there’s an invisible barrier around the nursery and unless you allow it, he can’t enter. After a while, you might let him smell things in the room, while you’re watching. Do this a few ties even before you bring home your baby. You choose when it’s time to leave the room. Your pet will learn that the baby’s room belongs to the leader of the pack and is to be respected all the time.
Manage the first introduction perfectly. First take him on as long a walk as he can handle so he runs out of energy. Before entering the house, wait on the doorstep to ensure he’s in a calm, submissive mood. The moment you both go inside, he’ll smell a new, somewhat familiar, scent. The person who is holding baby must be calm. Let your dog smell the baby but from a distance. Don’t bring him too close yet. Eventually you can let him get closer (if he’s behaving). This process teaches him that the baby is another pack leader and needs to be respected.
Teach your baby. Once baby gets into the exploratory phase, you need to supervise all contact between dog and baby. Baby should be taught not to pull his tail or ears and not to annoy him. Mutual respect lessons can begin as early as you want. There are thousands of cases of children provoking peaceful dogs accidentally because they had been unsupervised or hadn’t been properly taught right from wrong.
Don’t ignore your beloved pet. It’s easy to focus on the new baby. While your dog doesn’t need to be held and patted every second, he still needs food and water and regular exercise, as well as playtime. He still needs to see you as his leader. These things will ensure he feels secure and will enable him to relax now the family has a new addition.
Forget about the breed. Don’t falsely assume that your dog will behave in a certain way because of his breed. Establish your leadership and manage his behaviour and you should have no problems.
Your child’s safety has to come first. If you spend time on your own and/or with a professional and you’re not 100% confident that your baby will be safe with the dog around, then you’ll need to find your dog a new home, sad as that may be.
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