Congratulations! You have a new baby on the way!
The final few weeks of pregnancy can seem to creep along ever-so slowly as everyone eagerly awaits the arrival of the new baby; but there is always lots to do in terms of preparation to fill the time. There is the nursery to prepare, the buggy to choose, the car seat to sort…so much paraphernalia!
As dog owners, there is also the importance of preparing puppy for the arrival of the newborn human – an additional member to his precious pack. While it may be that you are as excited and as ready as you can be for the new family addition, your dog will be wholly unprepared psychologically for the arrival of a new member of the pack.
In the dog’s world, this new human thing arrives into their space overnight with no getting used to the idea. The arrival of a newborn can be quite dramatic for a dog as it often brings with it complete change in the family’s lifestyle and routine.
Dogs, in general, are fans of routine: keen on knowing what comes next and what is expected of them is comforting to our canine pals, but a new baby on the scene can mean a host of changes in their well-known set-up: less attention, fewer or shorter walks – or walks at odds times squeezed in between the feeding/napping baby routine. Also, attention on the new baby may well mean that the dog is left on his own for longer periods than before, or certain rooms or areas in the house may suddenly become ‘out of bounds’.
The good news is that there is plenty of things you can do to smooth the way, making sure that baby and dog become allies.
The earlier you start preparing your dog for the baby’s arrival, the better. It is always a good idea to allow the dog to be able to adjust slowly and gently, at their own time and pace.
Place all the baby equipment slowly around the house incrementally to avoid overwhelm and so that the dog has time to get used to it all in their own time. Same goes for the parents, too, probably! “How can something so small require so much STUFF?” is a common question asked by new parents!
Make sure to bring into the home any new furniture connected to baby’s arrival; from the cot to any high chairs and even toys and playpens, baby gates, baby gyms, mobiles, even the buggy and the car seat – bring it all through the door well before baby is born. Let the dog have a really good sniff of everything as it is gradually introduced – so that it is all familiar and comfortable and doesn’t all arrive at once with the new baby.
The loud and high-pitched cries of a baby may come as a shock to a dog bred in a previously adult-only environment. Baby sounds tracks can be easily found online. Try playing these tracks on a low volume daily while your dog is doing something that they enjoy – for example whilst tucking into their delicious Country Pursuit Chicken with Rice Complete Dry Dog Food, or while relaxing during TV time at the end of the day. You can even introduce the sounds from your phone while playing in the park (though be prepared for the fact that you may encounter some strange looks if you have a baby crying noise squeaking out from your coat pocket!)
Shake up the Schedule!
It is impossible to know what sort of a routine your baby will have when you bring them home from the hospital. For a good few months (eek, dare we even suggest, year?) the routine can be a little unpredictable for all but the most settled baby.
For a while, for most of us, day becomes night and night becomes day, and we all see many more hours awake in the night than we even saw as students, and afternoon naps become a MUST. It is impossible, therefore, to predict exactly how your dog’s routine will change, but do your best to pre-empt what might happen, and try to introduce various elements of the new post-baby world, before baby appears. This might mean, for example giving the dog less attention, or taking more regular, but shorter walks.
Roll into Role Play!
Think about daily situations which might occur with baby, where you need your dog to behave in a certain way – i.e. calmly! Positively encourage best behaviour at the table, not jumping up, waiting patiently and not tugging at the lead. Expecting your dog to suddenly comprehend the importance of all these AFTER baby’s arrival is much tougher than thinking about working hard at these behaviours during pregnancy in the lead-up to the arrival of the brother/sister.
Daily Walks – which include Baby!
Making sure that the dog is used to walking with a buggy will mean you can enjoy far less stressful daily excursions. Being able to walk the baby and the dog simultaneously is a huge time-saver, at a time when making things simple is GOLD!
Take the buggy out with the dog before the baby’s arrival a good few times and use some treats to help train dog to walk along calmly and without pulling.
Find one of those life-like dolls and carry it around the house. This – while being a little embarrassing – is a very useful way to introduce the idea of a small, precious, delicate thing to the dog and to train him not to jump up, only getting a treat or attention when his feet stay on the ground. Treat the toy as you would the baby, talk to it as you would the baby, and help the dog get used to an important bundle that he needs to treat carefully and that you will pay lots of attention to.
Recall is KEY!
It is much harder to run around the park trying to persuade a disobedient dog to come back onto the lead when you also have in your charge a small human who is either strapped to you, or in a buggy that you can’t just park up for a while. Ensuring that your dog comes when called will give you peace of mind and will make trips out so much less stressful on you. Work on recall before becoming a parent – there are loads of helpful videos online, or you can seek professional assistance. It will be worth it!
Get your dog used to being handled all over
Babies are RUBBISH at not poking at dogs. Or cats. Or hamsters. Or anything, for that matter. They are perennial pokers. We have yet to meet a baby who didn’t have a go at pulling at a tail, or grab a handful of fur. It is definitely worth taking the time to get your dog used to being handled all over before the baby arrives and grows up enough to start reaching for fists of fur by teaching them that every time you touch a different part of their body something good happens, such as they get a special treat.
NEVER leave dog and baby alone
Having said this: regardless of how placid your dog is, how gentle they have always been, how trustworthy they have proven to be with other dogs and humans….when your baby arrives, NEVER leave the dog and baby together unsupervised.
Always be there, close and at hand to proactively supervise any interaction. Do not ever leave them alone, no matter how placid your dog, or how convinced you are by their bond.
Right then. Are you ready? Are we ever really ready?! Best of luck, and…enjoy your sleep while you can! Unless you get one of those “immediately sleep through the night” babies. Do they exist? Can you order one? Do Amazon deliver??