Congratulations! You’re expecting a new human addition to the family, and it’s likely you’re preparing by setting up the nursery, shopping for diapers and other necessities, and taking a class in newborn care. But don’t overlook one important step: getting your dog ready for this life change.
Here’s the good news: it’s likely your dog is already aware something is up. Changes in the mom-to-be’s scent and body have clued him into the impending arrival. And even if you’re becoming parents by adopting or expecting through a surrogate, there are still things going on as you prepare — your excitement and the change in energy in the household will clue your dog in as well.
But that doesn’t mean he knows exactly what to expect — or what’s expected of him. The more you can do to prepare today, the better your entire family will fare.
Seek professional help with any serious problem behaviors
It goes without saying that aggression is a problem that needs to be handled now, but particularly if it is severe. Other issues like separation anxiety or fear may also fall into the category of problems that need to be addressed before the baby’s arrival. You have a limited time frame to get them under control, so make the most of your time by enlisting help.
Reinforce rules, boundaries, and limitations
Are you occasionally a little lax with discipline? Now is the time to change that. The little misbehaviors that are minor irritations now may not be as easy to handle when you’re coping with a newborn. Take the time left before the arrival to practice consistency and send a clear message about the behavior you expect.
Claim the baby’s areas
Don’t want your dog jumping up on the playpen, walking all over the baby’s play mat, or entering the nursery? Add those to your list of boundaries to reinforce. Set out the baby’s items now, and make it clear that you “own” each item and your dog needs to stay off.
Pay special attention to excited behavior
You may not mind it or see it as a problem today, but even a small dog can accidentally cause an injury by sharing too much excitement with a baby. Award calm-submissive behavior with attention, and ignore hyperactive behaviors.
Establish the new schedule
Caring for a baby will leave you completely wiped, particularly the first few months. But even after it gets easier… it’s still a lot of work! This will leave a lot less time for your dogs, and it will definitely disrupt their normal schedule. Get them used to any adjustments that you can anticipate now. For example, if someone else will be assisting with walks or feedings, have them start doing that now.
Invest in a baby carrier or a jogging stroller now
One way to help maintain your dog’s walk schedule is to take the baby along with you! For the mom-to-be, this has the added benefit of outdoor exercise, which can help boost her post-partum mood. But it will take some adjustment for your dog to get used to walking behind the stroller or with some wiggly creature strapped to your front. Practice in advance, so you’re both masters at it by the time the baby is there.
Play the sounds of a baby’s cry
Find a recording of a baby crying (you can head to YouTube to find videos), and put it on as loud as possible while you go about your daily routine. It won’t be exactly the same as the real thing, but it can help get your dog accustomed to the sound and may help you identify (and address) any problem behaviors that it elicits.
Expose your dog to babies and children
If it’s safe to do so, it’s a good idea to introduce the different energy and scents that young humans bring. Make sure to talk to parents and children about the proper way to approach and interact with your dog to keep the interaction positive. You may discover issues you weren’t aware of, since many dogs act differently around children than they do with adults.
Some of these things may seem hard to do as you navigate the pregnancy. After all, it isn’t always easy when you’re dealing with nausea and less energy. But it isn’t going to get any easier after the baby’s arrival. Don’t make the mistake of waiting… and then facing the choice of rehoming your dog because you can’t handle him and your new baby at the same time.
Look forward to seeing your dog interact with your baby!
Much of this advice is about preventing problems in the future, but it’s important to keep this in mind: with the right preparation, there will likely be wonderful moments between your dog and your new child.
In fact, you may be surprised by how quickly your dog adopts your baby as a member of the pack, and as your child grows, their friendship will grow, too.
Read more about how your dog may actually help with the baby as well as the stages of the baby-canine relationship to learn what you can expect and tell us about your experiences in the comments below!