How to prepare your dog for a baby

Are you having a baby? Are you nervous about how your dog is going to be with your baby? Let’s go over some steps so you can help your dog through this transition!

Hi, I am Ashley, and I’ve been working at The Dog Haus as a Pack Leader and Assistant Trainer for over 5 years. My fiancée (Domenic) and I are expecting a baby boy at the end of March. Currently I am 35 weeks pregnant with two dogs at home – Fred, a Golden Retriever-Cocker Spaniel mix & Millie, a Jack Russell-Pug cross. Being as this is such a huge life adjustment for ourselves and our dogs, we are training them now so that they can remain calm and balanced when our son comes home.  Here’s what you can do with your dog to set him/her up for success when your baby arrives.

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Create Calm Associations

Fred and Millie were both previously trained on their “place” command. So, the very first thing we started with was putting them on place and playing crying babies sounds on YouTube. They are soon going to have to listen to this all day long. It was super important to us that they have heard this before in order to understand that it’s no big deal and to relax on their beds. Another “place” exercise we work on is the door bell and people knocking. The first couple of weeks after coming home people are going to be coming over unannounced at all times of the day. If the baby is sleeping and door bell goes off and the dogs go running and barking and wake up baby this could become very annoying and stressful. Why not train them not to react at all? It will make things a lot smoother once our hands are full.

Practice the Walk

Walking your dog is easy right? Now try adding a stroller! You want to make sure that your dog is used to walking beside a stroller while empty so that there is no risk involved when training. We pulled out the stroller and started walking the dogs beside it well in advance so that they grew accustomed to how to follow along beside even with the added distraction. This will make sure that it’s no big deal once baby is here!

Set Clear Boundaries

I recommend starting with the baby’s room being off-limits. Make sure your dog understands that there is an invisible barrier that they may not cross without your permission. Eventually, you can allow your dog to explore and sniff things in the room, but this must be on your terms. Make sure your dog respects this room – you decide what they can and cannot do in that room.

Control The Initial Introduction

Before bringing home your baby, bring home something that smells like the baby, e.g. a blanket that they were wrapped in. When introducing this item, make sure that there is a clear boundary with it and to not promote excitement with the dog. Present the scent and allow the dog to sniff from a distance (a dog’s nose can smell anything from a distance of 12 feet). They do not need to put their nose on it to take in that smell, nor do we want them to. We want to make sure they respect this item and understand that the baby’s smell means calmness and not excitement. Controlling the introduction in this way will allow you to be safe, calm, intentional and prevent the dog from jumping up around the baby.

Once your little bundle of joy has arrived, make sure your dog is well exercised for the greeting. Same activity as the blanket. Making sure your dog gives a respectful distance when smelling the baby. They will already know the smell since you have brought home an item that has the baby’s scent on it. If a leash will help you maintain a safe and comfortable distance I’d suggest that.

Don’t Forget About The Dog

Make sure your dog’s needs are being met daily. If they are not, you may have problem behaviours start to come up through this transition. Dogs need at least an hour of exercise a day. If you cannot provide the dog this, make sure you outsource, e.g. a dog walker or daycare.

Having a baby is such a life changing experience for you, just as much as it is for a dog! Providing the dog with a safe space they can go to and rest if need be is crucial. We have crate trained both of our dogs, and consider that space as their bedroom. With a baby coming home they will probably want and need their crates more then ever. Dogs deserve a space of their own to relax and get away from stimuli that may overwhelm them, so crate training your dog before the baby arrives is something I highly  recommend.

I hope these few tips are helpful to you. Your dog already knows something is changing, because they are so in tune with us and our energy. They do know that something is coming, but they have no idea what that is exactly. So these steps can definitely help getting them adjusted to the new addition. Your child’s safety will always be first, make sure if something does come up to seek professional help with a dog behaviourist.

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