Ideally, you’ve just found out the happy news and want to start preparing your first kid (the one with four legs) for the new arrival as soon as possible. The key to a smooth transition is early preparation. It is very important to establish new routines and skills beforehand, so your dog does not associate the changes with the baby. Not only will you make things easier for your dog, but with some preparation early on, you won’t feel overwhelmed as the big day approaches.
By thinking and preparing ahead you will be able to have the final game plan in place before the baby comes home. The new routine should be a normal part of your life at least a month before the baby comes on the scene. The more changes needed to get there, the longer the preparation period that will be required.
So where do you start? Here are a couple of basic things to start thinking about.
Make a list of all the ways you think your dog’s routine and lifestyle will change
In the house:
Is your dog your shadow in the house?
Does your dog get up on the furniture?
Does she make up her routine for most of the day?
Do you typically respond to your dog’s requests for attention, such as pawing or jumping?
If your dog presently has free run of the house and constant access to you, you will need to establish a routine of regular quiet times throughout the day for the dog. In addition, creating a special place for your dog to settle will be very helpful. With a baby present, your dog will need to respect the times when you require some space to safely feed and hold the baby. Along with not having to worry about tripping over a dog that is constantly underfoot, she will need to be able to chill out while you’re attending to the little one.
If the duration or schedule of your dog’s walks or exercise activities will be different once the baby arrives, start making the adjustments towards that new routine now.
Will someone else be helping out with the walks? If so, have them start taking over some of the walks now.
And don’t forget about your dog’s transportation. If your dog’s place in the car will change, get your dog used to it now. That could be getting used to a crate, a seat belt harness or simply a new position in the car).
Identify the things that will be novel to your dog and build positive associations to them
In the House:
Many dogs find the cry of a baby upsetting, so it’s a good idea to start desensitizing your dog to the sounds of a baby beforehand. If you have access to the real thing that’s great, but you can accomplish this simply by using a sound clip on your phone. You can create a good association by pairing the baby noises with something tasty.
As well, start getting your dog used to you carrying a baby in your arms. You can do this simply by holding some swaddling of fabric. Again, don’t wait until the last minute to start desensitizing.
Before the baby is home and using things like the crib, chair or change table is the perfect time to give your dog a chance to investigate the equipment. It may take a few tries before they are willing to get close. That’s OK. Don’t try to make them do more than they are comfortable doing. Build positive associations by pairing any exposures with tasty treats.
Desensitizing your dog to a baby carrier or stroller is the same as with the gear and furniture in the house. Start early and be sure to build positive associations. Once comfortable with the item, you can begin going for walks using it.
Is your dog unruly on leash? Whether you plan to walk with someone or walk your dog on your own with the baby, you need to start dealing with leash manners now. Don’t wait! Basic leash manners need to be in place before adding the challenge of a stroller. If your dog is polite on leash and you’ve done some initial desensitization to the stroller, you can head outside with the dog and stroller together. At first, it is easier to have one person pushing the stroller while another walks the dog. Reward your dog for staying calm and being mannerly. You can use treats during the first outings as bonus pay. When you feel ready you can try the same process on your own. The important thing is to work out any ‘bugs’ on the walks before the baby’s actually in the stroller!
Hopefully, this has given you some ideas about things you need to consider while getting your dog ready for your new baby. Again, the sooner you start the smoother it will go for everyone.