7 Critical Tips to Prepare Your Dog for Baby – BEFORE the Baby Arrives!
I get these calls a lot: new parents needing help with their dogs. The same dog that was once the light of their life and center of that world, dogs that might wear tiaras and sweaters or ride around in a stroller or purse, or even go running with them twice a day and eat at the table.
Pet parents say things like: “He doesn’t behave anymore,” “She soils the rug every day,” “I just can’t handle her,” and “Do you know someone that can take my two dogs? They just don’t behave anymore.”
I prefer to get the call than not; at least they’re willing to find a solution to keep their beloved pup and fit them back into the family unit that they were squeezed out of. As an animal communicator I hear from the dog a tale of how great life was, spending so much time with their people playing, eating, watching TV, and then suddenly, BOOM –there is a crying baby in the house manipulating all of the parents’ time.
And I totally get it – babies are demanding! Then after the baby comes the kids, play dates, soccer games, birthday parties and so on – a parent’s time and energy can only go so far.
So if your dog is the light of your life right now, and some day you think you might have a baby (or two or three), here are some things to start doing now to prepare your beloved dog and maintain your peace, so you aren’t disappointed in your dog once junior comes along. Not all dogs will have a problem with a new family member, but these tips will help no matter what. After all, your dog can’t be too well behaved!
Life will be so much easier for you AND your dog later if you have the basic commands down cold. Asking a dog to sit, lay down or stay while cleaning up a messy accident with a crying baby should be met with obedience, not excitement or anxiety. Decide now how you want your dog to respond if the baby cries, if the phone rings, if the doorbell buzzes, and reinforce this training daily. Your dog may behave perfectly around baby, but until he/she lives with the baby full time, you won’t know for sure exactly what the reaction will be. If you’re able to, reinforce training around a friend’s baby so baby sounds and smells become familiar to your pet. During a complete breakdown (it will happen), a well-trained dog is a godsend.
This is critical. Animals living in our homes understand way more than people give them credit for. As an animal communicator, I hear things from animals that are sometimes as specific as what time dinner is. Always tell your dog what is going on – everything from when you’re going shopping to taking a nap to cooking dinner. And all you have to do is speak it – we automatically form images and emotions when we talk and this is what the animals pick up on (more on that here). Animals that feel as though they are part of the family want to be included in knowing the daily activities and being included in decisions being made. Start talking now and continue after the baby arrives.
Let the dog know daily, for as long as possible ahead of time, that the baby is coming!
Added bonus – your baby will hear you enunciate far more words, helping them out with their verbal skills.
One Simple Routine
Establish a simple routine with your dog that you believe you can maintain when baby comes. This is about ease for you! Have consistent mealtimes, potty times, play and walk times. The dog will appreciate knowing that when 8:00 am rolls around, food will be served no matter what, and it keeps the dog’s general anxiety down. Some animals rely, even insist, on consistency and routine even without a baby. Don’t give the dog any additional reasons to get annoyed with the new Bundle of Attention; create a simple routine and stick to it.
Added bonus – keeping your dog on a schedule will help keep you and baby on a schedule, and you’ll find that it’s easier for everyone in the house.
Special Dog Time
Even though right now every minute of every day is special time with the dog, begin now by choosing a time that you will continue to have parent-dog time, and choose an activity your dog loves. Fetch, grooming, bath time, massage –whatever it is, and even if it’s only 10 minutes, start now and stick to it. Your dog will know you do still love and appreciate them, even if the baby takes most of your time.
Create space – both physically and mentally – for the dog to respect baby time. Whether it’s a crate, a fenced-off area or a room, get your dog used to being put in their own special place for at least an hour a day while you’re home. This doesn’t count if you leave the house, so stay home during this training. Have a special toy or blanket that is exclusive to this area. This will set the tone for them knowing they are not in trouble when they are put there while you have parent-baby time. This is also when the quiet command might come in handy! Ignore any initial whining, and trust me when I say you’d rather go through these training tribulations now than later.
Added bonus – you’ll be required to have some “me” time before the baby comes!
Have you ever babysat and decided it would be a great idea to take both the dog and child out at the same time, only to discover the dog goes crazy around a stroller? Well many people have, and it’s better to work this out now, before baby! While I advocate dog-only walks, there will be times you want the whole family out walking, and dogs don’t inherently love strollers, at least not to walk with. If your dog barks, jumps or growls at skateboards, bikes, carts or any other wheeled device, it’s time to start training with a stroller now.
What is your dog’s job right now? Everyone loves to have a job and a purpose! If they have an aggressive job such as protector, take care to do extra training to ensure the safety of both your child and visitors. It may also be time to see if a job reassignment is in order, as you may no longer want the sentry that wakes you in the middle of the night to continue this position. The right job is important and you must consider your dog’s complete essence, or archetype, to make sure it’s a good fit. For example, a job for a nurturer or healer is going to be very different from a job for a guard or patrol dog or house manager. Some common jobs dogs have are pest control, greeter, doorbell, loving companion, teacher, helper – you can find a lot more information on animal archetypes and jobs on my website. Whatever their job is be sure to tell them, out loud, what it is, what the expectation is, and praise them for being successful at it.
You will be happy to have all of these strategies in place before baby arrives!