For a lot of us, dogs are our children until an actual child arrives. Like any big brother or sister, they need to be introduced to their human sibling under the best possible circumstances.
You have nine months to introduce the idea of change to your dog, whether they be nervous types or just sensitive to changes in routine. Take this time to get the dog ready before adding a new tiny being to the pack.
Dog whisperer Cesar Milan advises that dogs mirror our emotions, so check in with yourself: Are you manifesting your own anxieties, fears, excitement? Those are pretty natural and can’t necessarily be contained for the sake of the household pet, but are worth considering if you can’t figure out why your dog is already way too hype.
It’s also important to really think about your relationship with your dog. Do you have control over them? If you aren’t confident in your ability to direct or reassure your dog under stressful circumstances, this might be the time to confer with a professional on the matter. Some training might be necessary for both of you.
Crate training gives your dog somewhere to go when they’re stressed and somewhere for you to send them when they need a time out. Most dogs learn to enjoy their time in a crate, because it becomes a private little haven, but you need to work up to it. Just throwing them inside a cage will not relieve stress! Victoria Stilwel says:
Make sure the dog gets quality attention by itself as well. You don’t want to isolate the dog but having a safe place is important.
Don’t use a crate as an excuse to neglect the dog, but as a space where the dog can feel secure.
It can feel as though there’s no way to predict what will change in your life when a baby comes, and that’s true up to a point. However, there are some changes that will happen that you can plan for and start introducing your dog to now, according to the ASPCA.
If certain pieces of furniture will be outlawed or entire rooms off limits, for example, teach the pup that before the baby arrives. If you have a very solid walk routine, consider varying it in the months before birth, as your schedule will likely become unpredictable. If you don’t have a dog walker but know you’ll need one, try to get somebody early so they have time to get to know your dog.
You can even plan how to display affection:
Resist the temptation to lavish your dog with extra attention in the weeks before the baby’s due date. This will only set her up for a bigger letdown when the baby comes and takes center stage. Instead, start scheduling short play and cuddle sessions with your dog, and gradually give her less and less attention at other times of day. Schedule your sessions randomly so that your dog doesn’t come to expect attention at any particular time.
If that sounds horribly robotic, remember that it might keep your dog from associating a lack of affection with the new baby. You don’t want that kind of resentment in the house.
You can play videos or sounds of babies crying for the dog before the real thing destroys their peace. As these horrible sounds play, feed them a treat here and there and lavish attention on them. The ASPCA says repeating this procedure a few times a day for five to 10 minutes will make the dog associate crying with positive things.
If the sounds are way too intense or seem frightening, start the recording at a low volume — dogs’ ears are much more sensitive than ours.
There will be a lot of new purchases for the baby, including things such as lotions, baby wipes and so on. Open them up so your dog can get a good sniff. They process much of the world through their incredible noses.
When the baby is born, the baby will probably spend a little time at the hospital, so bring home a blanket they’ve used for the dog to smell too, or wrap the blanket around one of the dog’s favourite toys so the dog can get used to that.
Again, be kind and encouraging to your dog when this pre-introduction is happening, and give them a treat.
Get A Doll
This is a weird one to me, but some people apparently buy baby-sized dolls and introduce the dog to them, establishing clearly that this is not another toy. The dog will obviously know it isn’t a real baby, but you can perform some of the gestures you might with a real baby, so the dog becomes used to those movements and actions. That means teaching Fido not to jump on you when you’re handling “the baby”, and to approach slowly when you’re sitting with it.
Watch That Baby
The baby will slowly grow into a kid, one who is capable of irritating a dog beyond endurance. Milan’s advice is to remember to supervise their interactions until the baby can be trained as reliably as the animal:
Once your child is in the exploratory state, it is important to supervise all interactions between him or her and the dog. This is a great opportunity to teach your child not to bother the dog, yank her tail, etc. These lessons on mutual respect cannot begin early enough. Too many children have inadvertently provoked an otherwise peaceful dog, simply because they were unsupervised or their parents had not given them proper instruction.
Hey, we can’t expect the dog to make all the concessions.