Any change in a dog’s routine or environment brings the potential for stress and anxiety. Adding a baby is certainly a big change to any household and this change is felt by all members of the house, including the dog.
So how can we reduce the feeling of stress and anxiety for your dog in this situation? Preparation is the key. The more prepared you and your dog are, the smoother the transition into a family of one more (or two) will be.
It is likely that your dog has noticed the changes in the house already, on a chemical level. Changes in mum as she grows another human are noticed by the dog, sometimes even before the humans know there is a new arrival on the way. If you have an anxious dog, this can bring about stress or anxiety. If this is the case for your dog, introducing Adaptil calming pheromone at this early stage can help alleviate some of this anxiety.
In preparing your dog(s) for the arrival of your newborn, below are some simple tips to help get you off on the right foot.
Introduce New Rules
If your dogs are normally allowed to sleep in your room but you don’t want them in your room once the baby arrives, don’t wait until you bring your baby home, make the changes now. Start introducing one new rule at a time to give the dogs a chance to settle into each new rule before imposing another one. You don’t want to change everything at once as this can cause stress in your dog.
Work on Obedience
If you have let your dog’s obedience lapse over time, or they didn’t have a high level of obedience to begin with, now is the time to work on this. If you have limited time, the top three exercises I would recommend teaching are:
- Going to their bed and staying there.
- No jumping on people.
- Walking nicely on lead
Once your baby arrives it is most likely that your routine will change. Walks may be at different times, the dog may need to spend more time outside and certain rooms and objects may become off limits. If this is the case, you will need to put these rules in place before the baby comes along so as not to confuse the dog and give him time to adjust. If Toby is currently allowed on the couch but will not be allowed once the baby arrives, begin teaching him to stay on his bed and the “off” command for if you need him to get off the couch.
A baby’s cry can be quite strange and sometimes frightening for a dog that has not been exposed to this previously. It is a good idea to play these sounds to your dog, either from clips on the internet or a specific CD for this purpose, before the baby’s arrival to get your dog used to hearing these sounds during the day and night.
If you are having trouble, contact us to arrange a private consultation to work on this with you.
Once the baby’s room is set up, allow your dog into the room to have a sniff and become familiar with the new objects and items in the room, always with your supervision. Allow your dog to smell things like the baby powder and soaps so that your dog can make a calm and positive association to these smells before the baby arrives. If you would rather the baby’s room be a room off limits to the dog you will need to put this rule in place in advance.
Bringing Baby Home
Once the baby is born, before you have brought the baby home, have your partner take home a blanket or piece of clothing that has the baby’s scent on it. Allow Toby to calmly sniff the item. If he is excited, remove the item. Teach Toby that this smell must equal calmness, not excitement. Don’t allow Toby to sniff too intensely. Sniffing from a distance is a plus as you want Toby to give space to the baby, not crowd it when it is home.
Introducing your baby to Toby will be a beautiful moment indeed. Your fur baby and your human baby coming together for the first time, such a special time. Obviously we would like this to be as calm and controlled as possible.
When you get home from the hospital Toby will be VERY excited to see you. Have your partner hold your baby while you greet Toby. Give him some one-on-one time (NO jumping) before giving your attention back to your baby. If possible, have your partner walk Toby beforehand to help remove any excess energy.
When you are ready to introduce Toby to your newborn, it is a good idea to have Toby on lead to give you complete control of the situation. Allow Toby to approach the baby calmly. Any sign of excitement means Toby is moved away. From this moment Toby needs to know the rule of “baby = calm” can not be broken.
Now that the baby is part of the family, makes sure you maintain your routine and give your attention to Toby when you can. We don’t want Toby to feel left out and confused by the new arrival. Any change to a dogs environment is stressful and it is important to keep the rest of his environment and routine stable to limit the impact of the arrival on him.
Don’t forget to also train your baby. Once he/she becomes mobile and begins to explore the world you will need to make sure they are taught to respect Toby. There should be no pulling tails, ears, climbing on top of Toby etc. Just as your baby needs space from Toby for safety, Toby also deserves space fromt the baby. For more information on this, please read our blog Living Harmoniously With Children and Dogs.
The most important thing you can do right now is focus on your Toby’s obedience and iron out any issues you currently have. Putting in the effort now will pay off once the baby arrives. If you need to hire a professional to do this, get someone in ASAP. There is no time like the present.
And be realistic. If you don’t believe Toby will be a safe dog to have around children and the work you have done with him is not enough to keep your baby safe, while this may be a controversial decision, it is better to rehome him to a child free home to lead a happy and relaxed life than to risk the safety of your child and as a result the wellbeing of Toby.