Recently, a pregnant friend of mine inquired, “What are some ways to make life easier on our dogs after we have our baby?” Since I have such a passion for facilitating safe and positive interactions between children and dogs, my mind immediately began to race with all the fun activities and things that can help relationships between a child and dog to flourish. But when I paused for a minute to really think about it, I found myself needing to back up a bit to the basics. There are numerous things you can do after baby is born to help your dog with the transition, but there’s no need to wait! Preparing yourself and the family dog for life with baby during pregnancy, or even before, is bound to set your dog up for success when adjusting to your new bundle of joy.
These 5 suggestions are a great place to start for getting your pup ready for the arrival of your sweet baby:
- Teach your dog to be calm and comfortable when separated from you – even while you are in the home.
Throughout the years of raising children, you may often find it helpful to separate your dog from the action. It can quickly restore sanity and ensure safety in a home with growing kids.
- Recognize and address attention-seeking behaviors.
How does your dog capture your attention? Does Fido toss a slobbery ball in your lap to entice you to participate in a game of fetch? Perhaps FiFi barks at you to remind you it’s dinner time? Maybe your furry friend paws at you to ask for petting! These are just a few ways our dogs communicate with us. Though these things may seem harmless now, they sure can be a nuisance once you have a newborn in your arms. Pawing for attention can cause scratches to a baby’s tender skin, and oh my, the barking! Once you get your little one nestled to sleep, you won’t welcome that 5pm dinner “call” that startles the baby awake. Working to modify these behaviors now will prevent unnecessary frustrations later.
- Become an expert on canine stress signals: understand your dog’s body language and forms of communication.
Bringing a new baby into the home is a time of exciting transitions for everyone. We do all kinds of learning and reading to prepare for our baby’s arrival and growth, but our beloved pets don’t have that advantage. They often just get thrown into the mix and are left to adjust to the new smells, noises, routines, and equipment on their own. This can be challenging and overwhelming for the family dog, who may then begin to engage in inappropriate or destructive behaviors, or even become fearful or reactive. If you take the time now to become an expert on your dog’s sensitivities and stressors, then you can implement plans and strategies for directing him into a calm, safe place where he can adjust to the changing environment and dynamics from a comfortable distance.
- Work with your dog to master basic obedience cues like Sit, Down, Stay, Come and Leave-it.
Remember when you first brought your furry friend home, maybe took some training classes, and worked tirelessly to teach your dog basic manners? This is just one of the many times that having mastered those basics will pay off. If you skipped training those fundamentals, then now is the time to initiate some positive reinforcement training. A strong “leave-it” can keep baby toys and items safe from destruction, “down stay” is a great way to keep doggy noses out of diaper changes, and “sit stay” can be useful for allowing your dog access to the nursery with permission only. You can also use those basic cues to expand and teach other related skills like “place” (teaching your dog to go lay down in a certain spot) or “settle” (relax or calm down). All your training should be fun and positive. You’ll be amazed at the usefulness of reliable manners.
- Contact me! I’m Debra with Smartypaws LLC: www.smartypaws.net
I can help you work through the above suggestions, offer additional resources, and so much more! Smartypaws offers dog training / behavioral consultations, and Family Paws™ Parent Education Dogs & Storks® and Dogs & Toddlers™ presentations for families in Kansas City and the surrounding areas. These international parent education programs give insight to canine body language, tips for preparing dogs for baby’s arrival and helping them adjust to baby or toddler stages, and strategies for facilitating safe and positive relationships between children and dogs. You can read more about Family Paws™ Parent Education at www.familypaws.com.