With a new baby, a host of new smells and sounds enter the house that your dog will have to get used to. Your dog will also have to deal with the loss of attention, new behaviors by his humans, as well as the strange little creature that is now living in the house too. However, with a bit of preparation and guidance, you can facilitate a lifelong bond between your child and your dog. The following are 6 tips for preparing your dog for a new baby.
Preparing Dog for Baby
Give your dog a place to retreat to when he is over-stimulated. Place a dog bed in a separate space and put his food, water, and toys in this area. Make sure the dog can always access this sanctuary but keep the children away from it.
Set-up the nursery early to give your dog time to get used to the new sights and smells, as well as the new limitations. Allow your dog to investigate the nursery but always bring the dog out of the room again to enforce the room is off-limits.
Also start using baby lotions and creams during this time, so your dog can get used to the new scents and learns to associate them with his family. Another smell to get him used to now is hospital smell. When you come home from planning visits at the hospital, give your dog a chance to smell you, this will be great preparation for when you bring the baby home for the first time.
If your dog knows basic obedience commands he will be easier to manage when the baby is around. Start obedience training now, or re-establish obedience where it may have lapsed. Work on making certain areas off-limits for your dog, such as beds or couches where you will be placing the baby. Another behavior you will want to work on now, is not jumping up on people. This can be dangerous when you are carrying your baby around.
As your dog will undoubtedly be poked and prodded by little hands soon, you will need to desensitize him with a bit of training. Poke and pinch your dog a few times and then reward him with a treat. Gradually make the pokes and pinches a bit more forceful over three weeks or so. Also gently pull your dog’s fur, ears, and tail and then give him the treat to teach him that good things come from being touched this way. Keep going until he looks at you excitedly for the treat and does not react negatively.
Make sure you also touch your dog in your usual gentle manner throughout this period, otherwise, he might decide that all touching is unpleasant.
There will also be new sounds in the house. To get your dog used to the sound of a baby crying, find some recordings of crying noises (YouTube clips will work well) and play those a few times so the sound is not entirely new when the baby comes.
Lack of exercise is a huge factor in making a dog unhappy. With a new baby in your life, you may not be able to give the dog the same amount of exercise as he’s used to. Think realistically about how much attention and time you yourself can give your dog once your baby arrives and start thinking of ways to make sure he still gets time to play and exercise. Some ideas to get you started: get the dog used to walking with someone else, teach your dog to run on a treadmill, use a doggy backpack to make a short walk more tiring, and train your dog to walk calmly with a stroller before the baby comes home.
6. Hello Baby
And then it’s finally time to introduce your dog to your newborn. When you first bring the baby home, make sure everybody else first greets the dog. This will give your dog a chance to greet all of his people with the usual excitement before the new member of the family arrives.
Now have someone leash the dog. This person should also have a pocket full of treats ready to divide the dog’s attention between the treats, the people, and the baby. It is very important you stay calm when you bring the baby into the house as dogs will pick up on your nerves and worry!
You can let your dog investigate the baby immediately or do this at a later time. To introduce the dog to the baby, sit down in a quiet room with the baby. Have the dog brought into the room on a leash and in a calm voice invite your dog to approach. If his body language is relaxed and friendly, your partner or friend can walk the dog over for a sniff. If your dog is too excited, take him for a walk and try again later.