Having a baby is a life changing experience for everyone, including our four legged friends. For many, our dogs are our first babies and we want to make the transition as easy as possible for them. I have 2 dogs, Sadie and Obi, when I also had my daughter. I did some things to help prepare them for a new little person in the house but since then I have learned a lot more and wish I had done these things as well. Here is how you can prepare your dog for a new baby in the house to make it easy on them, as well as yourself.
Before the Baby Arrives
If you already have behavior issues with your dogs, whether they jump up on guests or are territorial over toys and food, you want to get these problems solved before the baby comes. You can try training them yourself or even enlist the help of a dog trainer or behaviorist. The things they should know are “Back” and “Down” so you can get them to obey easily so they don’t get too close to the baby. You might also want to train them to get off the couch or only get on it when you give the OK. This will make things a lot easier when you are feeding the baby.
Start setting up the nursery a little bit at a time so things aren’t changed too quickly. Let the dogs come in and check out the nursery when something is new so they can smell it and get used to it without the baby being there yet. You might also want to pull out all of the baby equipment like the swing, bottle warmer, bouncer, anything that moves or makes noise. They can go ahead and get used to these things so they don’t freak out when everything is going on at once.
Speaking of noise, babies are loud! If your dogs aren’t used to being around kids or babies, you can get a CD that plays baby sounds for pets. I’m sure there are even ones you can download online. My dogs started howling the first time they heard my baby cry so I wish I would have done this.
While You are at the Hospital
You will be in the hospital for a couple of days so make sure you have arranged for someone to take care of your dogs. I was lucky enough to have my mom and fiance rotate feeding them since the hospital was only 10 minutes away. Let someone take a used baby blanket or burp cloth home when they go to check on the dogs. The dogs can sniff the blanket and start getting used to the baby’s scent. Make sure you tell them to be gentle and not rough with the blanket, you don’t want them doing that to your baby!
Bringing Baby Home
When you bring the baby home, let someone else hold the baby outside while you go in to greet the dogs, they have missed you and will be excited. Once they are calmed down, then you can bring in the baby and sit on the couch. I had my fiance put the dogs on a leash just in case they got too close and needed to be pulled back. We slowly let them come up and sniff the baby’s feet. Once they saw that everything was fine, they went to check out our bags. That was it, our family was together.
Once Baby is Home
You are going to be very busy with the baby so make sure you have someone walk the dogs for you or take them out to get some exercise. A dog that has too much energy is not going to listen and behave. I also liked having a dog toy that dispenses food to keep them busy in the house. If it is a nice spring day, you might even want to breastfeed outside and you can throw around a ball with the dogs; that is what we call multitasking!
I also made sure to keep the food in a tightly sealed container and put the dog bowls on the counter. My dogs can be food aggressive so I didn’t want the baby getting too close to the food and making them angry. I did make sure to have lots of treats on hand and only rewarded them with treats or affection when they were calm. I would do this especially when I was breastfeeding or rocking the baby to sleep. To this day, they still come in when I am rocking her for a nap and lay down beside the rocking chair. They are a part of the routine without being bothersome.
This is just the tip of the iceburg, there are so many more options you can do because every dog is different. I am already teaching my daughter how to be gentle and not to touch the dogs because she is still a little uncoordinated. Always supervise your baby when dogs are around. Even though they are a part of your family, they are still animals and you never know what will happen. If you want more information, I found this book that is full of tips and methods you can try to prepare your dog for a new baby.