As I sit here, two days past my due date and wondering if my baby is ever going to come, my sweet pup is snuggled gently beneath my bump. These moments make me think “what a great dog. I cannot wait for her to meet our little one.” The thing is, I’m feeling excited for them to meet, rather than nervous, and I can largely attribute that to our prep work. Adequately preparing for baby is one of the best things you can do for your dog.
You often hear those nightmare stories about people bringing home new babies to their unruly and misbehaved dog, who, in a few short weeks, you will see posted on Craigslist or Facebook looking for a new home “preferably without small children.” This is such a sad, but common occurrence. Most times, though, I think a little preparation can make for a smooth transition.
Here are some of the key things we did with Ava to prepare her for a life with kids.
Annoy your dog. A lot.
From the day I adopted Ava, my boyfriend (now husband) and I worked together at making sure she was tolerant of things that aren’t any dog’s favorite. We knew, err uh, I knew that someday she would be the big sister to a little one, and I wanted it to be a seamless transition. We eased into annoying her, obviously, but ultimately we practiced tugging on her ears, touching her feet, and *gently* pulling her tail. I know, that sounds bad. The thing is, though, once babies learn to grab, they GRAB. Babies don’t think “let me rub the doggie’s belly!” They instead see *floppy ear* and go for it with their teeny little death grip. Because of this, I really felt like it was important to praise Ava for tolerating these things from the very beginning.
Now, let me stress that it is NOT okay to leave your baby unattended with any dog at any time. Additionally, it is super important to teach your baby proper dog manners from the very beginning.
But, prepping your dog ahead of time for the worst will take the edge off a bit, and ensure that your dog has some level of tolerance that will not result in a bite at your child! So, pester away!
Introduce your dog to all the baby things.
I’ll even admit that I was pretty surprised and overwhelmed at all of the things that come with having a baby. There are new contraptions that vibrate, swivel, swing, and take up corners of the house that didn’t used to be occupied, big Gucci strollers that take up tons of space by the front door, and things that look like dog toys but aren’t! Oh yeah, and that bassinet that is now in the spot next to our bed where her dog bed used to be…
Bringing home a new baby is a big deal for dog! They aren’t the only child anymore, and introducing all of this at once can be really stressful.
It’s important to show your dog the new additions to the home so that she is comfortable with them well BEFORE the baby arrives. Let her sniff around the baby’s room. When there are new scary baby things in our house, we use the “touch” command so that Ava approaches the item, touches it with her nose, and then gets a treat/praise. This gets her excited about the objects and she learns to associate them as a good thing. Doing this familiarization NOW will make it easier when you add a crying baby to the mix.
Get your dog around kids.
Speaking of crying babies… it’s a sound rather difficult to simulate in your own home. We play audio clips of crying babies in our home so that Ava gets accustomed to it. In reality, though, no audio clip can accurately simulate a real-life crying baby.
If you can, ask your friends with babies to come visit your house. Do this early and often. This will familiarize your dog with babies and toddlers in small doses. They learn the smells, cries, coos, and movements before it’s happening to them 24/7. This is free, invaluable training for your dog!
Ease off the undivided attention.
This is sad too, I know. Our dogs are our babies, and we love them and spoil them to no end.
However, the reality of the situation is that a new baby changes things. They become your number one priority because they are 100% dependent on you. Inevitably, this takes some time away from your dog. This doesn’t mean you care less about your dog or anything like that, it’s just the way the cookie crumbles.
So, to make sure your dog does not get jealous or depressed, (which some dogs do), you need to start setting boundaries with your dog now. Don’t let them onto the couch unless you invite them up. Make sure they are crate trained and get them used to some down-time in the crate. Try to do things around the house without stopping to play or pet your dog every time they look at you. At the same time, remember to stick to any routine that you might already have with your dog, and include them in the new things, so that they don’t feel exiled.
Don’t forget to praise them for being a good dog. These are big changes and they will need some time to adjust as well.