Preparing Your Dog for a New Baby
By Elaine Waldorf Gewirtz
Adding a new baby to the family is a joyous occasion, but to your dog, this tiny intruder brings a host of unfamiliar items he doesn’t understand. He sees novel sights, hears unusual sounds, and sniffs peculiar scents. If he’s never spent time around children as a puppy, he may feel frightened by this loud creature that captures your total attention. Suddenly your dog isn’t the center of your world and his daily routine takes second place to the wiggling blanket in your arms.
With the change in household activity, it’s no wonder that your dog may feel anxious and unsteady. If he’s sensitive to odd sounds, such as when the baby cries or the swing turns on, he can easily become frightened and stay hidden in a corner. Or he’ll crave your affection for constant reassurance. Naturally you’ll want to help your dog adjust to this new lifestyle.
GETTING READY FOR BABY’S ARRIVAL
If your little one isn’t expected for a few months, prepare your dog to adjust to the changes he’ll encounter. Here’s where additional training never hurts, so start by brushing up on his skills. This sharpens your dog’s mind and gives him something to do. If he hasn’t already learned these basics, teaching the sit, stay, lie down, drop it, and leave it comes in handy when you’re caring for your baby and an emergency arises. If your dog has already mastered these behaviors, add in some trick training or advanced maneuvers. He will feel more confident when he knows what’s expected of him.
Will you need to move your dog’s sleeping spot? If so, place his bed in the new location before the baby’s arrival. This gives him time to adjust to the change. If you plan to use Four Paws® Smart Gates to block off certain rooms, put them up and take them down at intervals so that he becomes accustomed to their presence before your little one’s arrival.
Does your dog enjoy an exercise routine? If so, change the pattern now to help him learn flexibility.
When you’re getting the baby’s room together, let your dog investigate the new furniture and wander around the space with you.
THE BIG REVEAL
Once the baby is born, you’ll want your dog’s first encounter to be a positive one.
Capitalize on your dog’s sense of smell. While you’re in the hospital, send home an article of clothing that carries your scent and the baby’s. This will help your dog recognize the baby when she comes home. Have the person allow your dog to sniff the article as much as he wants and repeat, “Good dog.” It’s not a toy, though, so don’t give it to him.
When you and the baby come home, let your dog greet you first before meeting the new little one. Then allow your dog to see, sniff, and greet her. Speak calmly and softly but cheerfully to your dog and let another family member give him some treats. This will help him associate the new addition with only good things.