Your dog has been an “only child” ever since the day you brought him home as a puppy. But soon a real baby is going to join your fur baby in the household. There are many measures you can take to ensure that your dog welcomes the newborn and accepts your baby as a worthy member of the family. In this article, you’ll learn 4 steps to prepare your puppy or adult dog for the arrival of your baby, which are:
- Introduce your dog to the household changes
- Brush up on commands until your dog obeys perfectly
- Create a designated “dog only” safe space
- Introduce your dog to the newborn’s scent
“Winging It” And Letting Nature Take Its Course Is Not A Good Idea
Before we dive in, we want to take a moment to stress the importance of actively training and teaching your dog how to behave around your newborn baby. Puppies and dogs do not have intrinsic knowledge of how to behave towards babies. For this reason, you shouldn’t do nothing and “let nature take its course.”
Dogs have good instincts regarding babies and children, but they also have territorial instincts and can be prone to jealousy when they experience their owners’ attention diverted away from them and onto a new member of the household. A jealous, territorial dog can pose risks to a baby. Likewise, a growing toddler and child needs to be supervised around the household dog as well as taught how to treat and respect the dog, especially around the dog’s mealtime.
While you’re expecting the arrival of your baby, it’s a good time now to strategize how to train your dog once your newborn is home. The good news is that, thanks to your dog’s keen intuition and sense of smell, he’s actually aware of the pregnancy. Using the advice in this article, you can help him to become aware of what the result of the pregnancy will bring into the household in due time, namely, your baby.
1) INTRODUCE YOUR DOG TO THE HOUSEHOLD CHANGES
Thank goodness pregnancy is a generous nine months! That gives you plenty of time to introduce your dog to the household changes that will occur once the baby arrives. These changes include the baby’s:
- Room, crib, clothing, toys
- New scents from the baby’s diapers, baby wipes, and other baby hygiene products
- New rules for the dog that must be instilled once the baby arrives
If you have a “baby room” in your home where the baby will sleep, we suggest that you immediately train your dog to understand that he can no longer go into that room if you have decided that once the baby is here, your dog will not be allowed in that room. You can do this by keeping the door closed at all times, and also by not allowing him to accompany you into that room during the preparatory months.
Whether or not you’ve determined that your dog can or cannot go into the baby’s room, you should introduce your dog to the “smells and scents” of all the baby products, including diapers, baby wipes, toys, and other baby-related gadgets. This will quench your dog’s curiosity and also help him connect those products (“scents”) with the newborn, once your baby is home.
The fact of the matter is that the lives of everyone in the household will change once the baby arrives. The biggest changes of which will have to do with everyone’s schedule, including your dog’s. We advise that you work out a plan regarding how to maintain your dog’s regular feeding and walking schedule. And be realistic about how that schedule may need to change. Whatever changes you anticipate, start implementing them now, months before the baby comes home.
2) BRUSH UP ON COMMANDS UNTIL YOUR DOG OBEYS PERFECTLY
We have no doubt that you love your dog and that life with your fur baby has been harmonious. Sometimes when life with your dog-best-friend is bliss, you don’t actually notice when your dog is being willful and challenging your direction by proceeding with a different direction he’d like to go in instead.
This might happen in small ways, like during a walk when you turn left and your dog pulls right, and you go right with your dog. Or during feeding time when you tell your dog to sit while you prepare his food plate, but he instead creeps towards you then stands next to you. These are in fact examples of disobedience.
It’s best for all parties involved—you, your dog, and the members of your household—that your dog obey you in all matters at all times. Though little instances of disobedience like this have been so slight that you might not have noticed them, when your newborn is here and your protective parenting instincts take over, you will probably become extremely sensitive to any disobedience from your dog, which could result in tensions and conflicts.
For this reason, we advise that you take the months leading up to your baby’s arrival to retrain your dog in basic commands like “stay,” “sit,” “drop it,” “come,” “go lie down,” etc. Your dog will enjoy the bonding experience of this extended dog training, especially if treats are involved. Work with your dog until he loyally obeys in all matters. You can even give your dog complex, baby-related tasks so that he’s an expert by the time you bring your newborn home.
3) CREATE A DESIGNATED “DOG ONLY” SAFE SPACE
Just as your baby’s room should be a “no dogs allowed” zone, your dog should have his own “dogs only” safe space. There are many benefits to providing your dog with his own safe space. On the one hand, dogs are territorial and by respecting your dog’s personal, designated safe space, he will have an outlet to retreat to. On the other hand, if and when your dog becomes unruly or disobeys you, you can send him to his safe space for a “time out.”
As your newborn grows into a toddler, you should teach your child not to go into your dog’s safe space. This is a crucial aspect of training your growing child to understand the dog’s needs, behavior, and how to respect the dog, especially with regard to the dog’s food bowl and feeding time.
One of the most important things to realize is that your new baby and all of your baby’s products, toys, and spaces, will be a socialization experience for your dog. There will be new sights, sounds, smells, and activities associated with your newborn that will be interesting, exciting, and maybe overwhelming for your dog. By providing a quiet place for your dog that’s “set apart” from the new baby action and activities, you will enable your dog to relax, self-soothe, and adjust to all the changes occurring around him.
4) INTRODUCE YOUR DOG TO THE NEWBORN’S SCENT
Assuming that the baby will be delivered in a hospital, not at home, it would be very helpful to your dog to smell the baby’s scent before the baby comes home. Perhaps a family member or friend can collect a blanket or clothing item from the newborn at the hospital (instead of a nurse removing the item for the purposes of washing it) for the purposes of bringing the item home to your dog to smell.
When a dog has a chance to smell and learn of the “scent” of the newborn baby before the baby comes home, it greatly helps the dog to comprehend and feel both comforted and confident in his role as the household dog.
If possible, we also recommend that a family member or friend stay with your dog at home while the rest of the family is at the hospital during the baby’s delivery. This is a better option than leaving the dog home all alone for those long hours. In general, making arrangements ahead of time with a trusted friend, family member, or professional dog sitter to lend a helping hand to care for your dog throughout the first days, weeks, and months of your baby’s arrival is also a really good idea.
Once your infant is home, you will be primarily focused on the baby. This alone will be a big adjustment for your dog who may be used to receiving all of your attention. By having a special human designated to give extra love and care to your dog, you can help your dog to avoid feeling left out, jealous, and neglected.
That concludes Petland Kansas City’s advice on how to prep your dog for a new baby! Congratulations if you’re expecting! And if you would like to add a new furry member to your growing family, check out the new arrivals on our website, or stop in our Overland Park location and meet our puppies, kittens, and exotic pets!