Dogs and babies – creating the perfect plan before the expected arrival
For many people, their dog is their baby. In their eyes, the dog is their cherished son or daughter.
But what happens when you bring a new baby into the family? A new-born can dramatically change not only your life but your dog’s life as well. As your routines change your attention will shift from the dog to the baby.
So how do we make sure this shift is acceptable to your dog and it does not cause any anxiety or jealousy.
Too many people wait until the Baby is home and then expect the dog to adjust. This is not the easiest route and can be potentially dangerous. It is the time you are put in while you’re pregnant that can really make the transition smoother.
We need to set out a plan and initiate changes to get him or her used to a new schedule and regime. So first sit down and think about the Behaviour your dog exhibits that might become an issue when you have a newborn baby in the home.
Dogs that have never been around children can see them as a little scary and unpredictable. Children do things that adults don’t, like make sudden movements, make loud noises, scream and shout and get in some cases get into dogs faces.
To give your pet exposure to children should be a normal part of the socialisation process whether you are planning a family or not, take them to the park to see how children play. To start with keeping them at a distance but as their confidence grows and reaction reduce you can get a little closer.
If you have friends with young children, then ask them if you can walk out with them. Obviously, keeping both dog and children safe always. The aim is to keep your dog calm and gradually desensitise your dog to the sight and sound of children.
The in-home work
You need to prepare the home, you need to set the rules and boundaries. The last thing you want while dealing with a crying baby is to deal with a distressed dog as well.
If your dog is a jumper, then this needs to be addressed now rather than later when you are holding the baby in your arms. Get yourself a doll or even a stuffed toy and treat it as you would your baby. Wrap it up in a blanket and start to carry it around at home, if your dog begins to jumper out of curiosity they simply use the word down or off and then reward and repeat the exercise.
You want the dog to become familiar with this activity and you walking around and talking to the doll or toy will become a normal occurrence. This behaviour then will automatically transfer once the baby arrives.
You also need to set out of bounds areas for your dog, this means you will have areas you can be without your dog while changing or feeding your baby. Not all dogs are crate trained so these areas are especially essential for those dogs that have always had free roam of the home.
Start by not allowing your dog into a certain room, simply close the door and only invite them in when you enter the room. Build on this by taking your time to invite them into the room. Have your dog sit outside the closed door or on the threshold of the door opened. If this becomes hard to achieve then set up baby gates to start which will allow your dog to see you but restrict their access.
Sight, smell and sound are how your dog knows the World so introducing all the new things your dog is going to see, smell and hear and early is essential to the process. So, introduce the pram, toys, nappies, clothes etc. Make sure your dog can see them and smell them but cannot access to them.
Introduce the smells of a new baby, baby powder and milk formula are ideal for this introduction. Again, make sure your dog has no access to these products but has a chance to process the smell.
Although you should have been taking your dog to places where they can hear children it is never going to be the same as a child in the home, your dog’s home or territory as he or she sees it.
With anything, we do we need to slowly desensitise and positively reinforce, but this is where many people become unsure what to do to help a dog get used to the sounds of children in the home. If you have friends with children and we know it is 100% safe, we can invite them around.
However, although good this is only temporary and short little visits. So, you can either record children screaming and play or you can purchase a sound CD which has the sounds of baby’s cry and infants noise. This is an ideal tool to help your dog accept and relax around these new strange sounds much like desensitising them to fireworks, traffic and loud noises.
Remember you are going to be dealing with a thousand emotions as your pregnancy advances and your dog will be picking up on that energy. Take your time to start with as it may seem overwhelming getting all this ready. If you stay calm your lovely cherished dog will stay calm. They are your life and you theirs so if help them get ready then they can help you get ready for the impending life changing the experience.