Bringing a new baby into the family is one of the happiest and most life-changing experiences you will ever have. And that goes for your pets too! A new family member will mean joy and companionship for your pup in the future, but at first it can be a major adjustment. While all dogs are different and some will have a harder time, many happily welcome the new addition to the “pack.”
Start preparing your pup as early as possible with regular obedience training. While this is recommended for all dogs, it is especially important if you have, or plan to have, children. Whether you teach him yourself, take a class, or hire a private trainer, your dog should learn basic skills. Teaching your dog to sit, lay down, stay, “leave it,” and not jump will make things much easier when you have a baby. Obedience training can start long before you consider having a baby, and can be practiced with your dog in the months before baby’s arrival to brush up on his skills. Many trainers offer classes or private lessons specifically geared towards baby preparation.
Some dogs benefit from crate training, or having a special place that they can go to “get away.” Other dogs are fine to just have run of the house and will leave the room if they are bothered. If you think your dog will benefit from his own space, make a nice cozy area available to him before the baby arrives. Allowing your dog the ability to get away will be even more important as your baby becomes a toddler!
Sights, Sounds, and Scents
Start by getting your dog used to all the new stuff you have in your home. Put together furniture and other new baby related things and place them where they will likely be once the baby arrives. Let your dog smell and investigate them, but supervise him so he doesn’t jump in the baby swing for a nap. Some suggest playing recording of baby noises and cries, start with a low volume and increase it until your dog gets used to the sounds. Be liberal with attention, praise, and treats to enforce positive associations.
Use a bit of baby wash or shampoo on yourself in the weeks or months leading up to the birth so that your dog gets used to the smell and associates it with you. Once the baby comes, have your partner bring home a used swaddle blanket from the hospital and let your dog smell it while praising him and giving him treats in the days before mommy and baby come home.
Exercise and Socializing
Having a baby might mean less time and attention for your pup. You may want to consider hiring a dog walker or scheduling doggie daycare a few times a week. If you have a very active dog, these options may take some of the burden off of you for the first few months and give you some easy, quiet time. Make sure to interview potential dog walkers or visit doggie daycares before the baby arrives to be sure you are ready to go.
If you plan to take your baby out for walks and have a well behaved dog, you may consider walking them together. Be very careful, especially if you have a larger breed dog. You may want to practice by taking the stroller and dog out for a walk before baby comes. Or enlist your partner or a friend to come along and help!
Prepare for Delivery Day
Labor can last a long time, and it is likely your partner won’t be able to make it home often or at all to feed and take the dog out. Make sure you have care for your plan lined up for delivery day. Even if you have a scheduled c-section, remember that babies dictate their own arrivals! So make sure you have a plan in case labor happens unexpectedly. A friend or family member who lives nearby, or a professional pet sitting service, is often a good bet if you trust they will be able to come on short notice.
Boarding might not be the best option since you may have to head to the hospital late at night. However, pet-taxi services are often available to take your pup to a boarder or doggie day care for you. Check with your boarder or local pet sitter to see if they offer this service. Again, you should meet with all professional caretakers (and even friends and family) well ahead of time, so they know your dog and his routine and can access your home when you are away.
If your partner has been home a least a little bit while you were in the hospital or birth center, let them hold the baby when you enter the house. Your dog might be extra excited to see you after several days, and will probably smell lots of unfamiliar scents on you, so she may be a likely to jump, lick, or just get in your way, which you won’t want while carrying your newborn. Allow your dog to sniff the baby without getting too close. If she is too hyper, you may want to separate them and calmly re-introduce the two once your pup has relaxed a bit.
Make sure to continue your dogs regular routine as best you can. Make a point to give your pup plenty of love and attention. If you have any concerns about your dogs behavior before or after your baby arrives, seriously consider hiring a private trainer to work with your dog in her own environment.