Nothing prepares you for the changes in your life when you have your first baby. The minute your baby is born your whole world functions around 3 hourly feeds. A shower and getting dressed for the day is a huge achievement; forget preparing yourself a normal meal, or even getting to enjoy a hot cup of tea.
In the last couple of months of pregnancy new parents spend all their time getting organised for the baby: filling the house with baby furniture, toys, assembling prams and installing car seats….
But what happens to the family dog….. ?
All of sudden his world changes too. You must prepare him for those changes. A new baby in the house is likely to mean the dog’s routine, eating habits and environment will change. You may want to keep certain areas of the house dog-free for the hygiene and safety of your new baby. Don’t make these changes after the baby comes otherwise your dog may feel this new tiny human has turned his world upside down. Make these changes a good couple of months before bub is due.
Keeping the dog out of certain rooms is easily done with baby gates. Make it very rewarding and worth his while to spend time in the new designated areas. I would suggest some enrichment toys that dispense food, a nice comfy sleeping area and his crate if he is crate trained. Does your dog sleep in your room? If he does that’s fine, however introduce some variety in his sleeping space because you may end up changing your mind on that especially during 3am feeds. So re- introduce a crate, sleeping in the laundry or outside of your bedroom and again do all these things well before the birth.
Babies are usually pretty noisy…. I hope you get a quiet one. A dog’s hearing is very sensitive so you must prepare your dog for what the baby will sound like. Head to the App Store or Google Play and download my App – Sound Proof Puppy Training. The app will teach you how to introduce your dog to the noise of a crying baby. It’s a pretty simple concept – play crying sounds to your dog while he is doing something he enjoys like eating, playing fetch or tug of war. This will pair the new sound with something pleasant. Always start with the volume very low; we don’t want to startle the dog or make him react to it, however, you do want him to be aware of the sound. The App has training notes and videos to ensure you get the process right. Here is a short video of my dog doing a demo with the app. Do a few training sessions a week leading up to your baby’s birth. Play the sounds in different rooms and slowly build the volume.
Prior to the birth of your baby it’s a great idea to practice your dog’s basic obedience training.
Teaching your dog to sit while you carry a baby around is far more appropriate than having your dog jumping up to investigate. You can practice this with a doll and use the app to simulate the sound. Reward your dog for keeping his four feet on the floor or sitting. Talk to your trainer if you feel you need extra assistance.
Sitting down on the lounge or in a feeding chair anywhere from six to twelve times a day is what you need to expect with a new bub and guess what? It’s exhausting. Your dog may be a lounge dog or even a lap dog. Your lap is going to be pretty full feeding your new baby. Before you sit down to feed organise your dog with management of space and the areas you have set up for him. You can also use your lead and tie him to the leg of the lounge. This isn’t a punishment as you are keeping him with you. Give him his dog bed or mat so he can be with you, just not on you. If your dog isn’t used to this exercise you can teach it from any age, read how here
Sitting down to feed is also a nice time to bring out his favourite enrichment toy and give the dog a job. In fact I wouldn’t bother feeding him from bowls anymore, I would only feed from enrichment toys and feed when you feed. You dog may end up getting six tiny meals to make up his whole day’s food. Your dog won’t feel like baby feeding time is boring – he will look forward to it.
Nothing is better than when you can start getting out of the house with your new baby. A walk in the fresh air is healthy and a pram can help an unsettled baby fall asleep. If you plan on taking the dog with you then you need to make sure he is comfortable walking with you with the pram. Walking close to a pram is also going to be new to your dog so put some practice in before bub comes along. Your dog may be fine or he may need some extra training – you won’t know until you try. If your dog pulls on the lead you will need to work with a trainer to teach nice, loose-lead walking. It is very hard to walk with a dog and a pram if the dog pulls. My golden rule is never tie the dog to the pram. Just hold the lead as you push your pram along
Preparing the family dog for the new baby needs to be well planned.
New parents are going to be tired and very busy during the first few weeks so don’t be afraid to hire a dog walker to help you out.
The day you bring your baby home, make sure your dog has had a good walk and his energy is drained. Bring baby home in the car capsule and spend some time with your dog – he will have missed you while you were in hospital. When you are ready you can introduce your dog to the new baby. When I did this with two of my boys I unwrapped them from their blankets so they seemed more human like. I had both my dogs on the lead and I felt very relaxed, we kept the whole experience very positive for the dogs.
If you don’t feel relaxed about the meet and greet then postpone it. If your dog is excitable or you are nervous you might end up telling him off in his initial greeting; the presence of the baby and you being angry will therefore be your dog’s first experience of the new addition and that wouldn’t be a good thing.
Always supervise dogs around babies – don’t EVER leave a baby with a dog unattended.
Photos: Twoguineapigs Pet Photography