So you’re pregnant, chances are your dog already knows something’s up, maybe not what, but something. It is important to prepare your dog for daily life with your new bundle of joy as this can be a stressful change, so it should be made as easy as possible. We’ve developed a step by step guide to help you transition into life with both your dog and your new baby.
Step 1: Gradually introduce your dog to new experiencesIt is important that this is a gradual process, (nine months should be plenty of time!!) you should start by introducing your dog to new sights, sounds and experiences that may occur when the baby arrives, but also it is key to make sure that these new experiences are associated with positivity too.
To start with, it is essential that you are 100% confident that you have full verbal control over your dog at all times. If not, an obedience class can be a great way of building that trust between the two of you.
The next step is to gradually introduce new objects and sounds into the home. For example, setting up baby furniture a little early, will help you both to set new boundaries (where your dog can and can’t go) and also be able to train the dog to associate these new changes as good rather than intimidating. Another way to introduce your dog to new experiences is to play baby sounds and reward positive reaction with a treat or even get a doll to simulate what having a new baby will be like, and to teach them what type of behaviour is acceptable around this new doll.
Changes to your dog's routine can be daunting and stressful so anticipate changes and introduce them as early as possible, for example this could be shortened walks or changing the time you feed him.
Another great tip, although you may look a little silly, is to take your dog out for a walk with a pram and a doll to test your control over him before you actually have a baby. If the dog pulls or is uncomfortable walking alongside the pram this can be a good way of training him to have the correct behaviour in this situation, make sure you are positive with him and reward good behaviour when appropriate.
The final preparation you will need to make is deciding who will be looking after the dog while you are in hospital, making sure that the new routine you have carefully planned is upheld and minimal stress is caused for the dog.
Step 2: Bringing the Baby HomeYour dog should now feel really comfortable and prepared for the changes that are about to occur. Before introducing the two you should bring something home that smells of the baby and use the item to set boundaries, let your dog sniff it from a distance, showing authority around the item, and that the dog should follow your rules around this scent.
Before introducing the dog and the newborn make sure you have taken your dog on a long walk to drain as much energy as possible. When meeting for the first time let the dog sniff from a respectable distance eventually getting closer and closer until the two are comfortable. You must be 100% sure of the safety of your child and this remain the most important factor throughout.
Step 3: Daily lifeOver the next few weeks your dog may act out a little, instead of scold him tell him a suitable alternative. It is also really important that you include your dog in baby related activities, so letting him sit in the room while you change a nappy, talking to both your ‘babies’ at the same is an essential exercise so your dog doesn’t feel left out.