When planning the arrival of your newborn, special consideration must be taken to get your family dog on board with the program. Perhaps the most important consideration is to graaaadddduuuuaaaallly change your dog’s environment over time. You have 9 months to prepare so it can be done. If you are creating a nursery, add and subtract items 1 at a time to prevent the “freak out” factor. Dogs, more than people, dislike changes to their environment, so again, go slooooow. Once your pup adjusts to the minor change, continue forward with other deletions or additions. In between each change, play with your dog in those spaces and do training as well so there becomes a positive association to the changes.
You’re going to want to invest in several baby gates, for the baby and for your dog. One important note, if you have a Velcro dog that stays with you wherever you go in the house, start the separation now. At first, separate him via gate for just 5 minutes at a time, then 10, then 20, and eventually, after a couple of weeks, an hour at a time. If you take anything away from this blog, do everything in small increments.
Prepare your pup for noises attributed to the new baby. Think about all the sounds your baby will be making – crying, screaming, throwing and dropping things, mumbling. The internet is replete with sounds and videos of all of these sounds – just record away and play them at lower than normal volume levels for your pup to hear, while at the same time giving him his favorite treats. Over time, increase the volume sloooowly as your pup gets used to the lower-volume noises. Don’t forget about the baby’s new toys – they make sounds as well – follow the same strategy as above.
Perhaps most importantly, getting your dog used to baby-related smells is key, since dog’s rely on the sense of smell more heavily than any of the other senses. Think of all the new and different items you and your baby will come into contact with. There are powders, lotions, sprays, detergent, wipes, tissues, blankets and clothes, and the list goes on. Many of these items can be exposed to your dog prior to the birth of your child. Others, like baby swaddles, towels and clothes should be transported from the hospital to home where they are introduced one by one to your pup, along with high value treats, so he has a good initial introduction to your baby’s smells.
Stepping back, be sure to properly train your pup in advance of the new baby. She should know the basics and then some. I recommend and “out” command which tells your pup to leave the room and an “away” command so she moves away from your baby. You can use a doll to simulate these drills. Of course, “leave it” will be critical and your pup should know it inside and out. “Off” is another important command – you don’t want your dog jumping up on mom when she is holding the baby. I would start the training 6 months prior to birth, practicing 15 minutes a day, every day, until about a month before the big day. Then reduce the training to twice a week to reduce the stress level of the pup prior to the baby coming home.
Two last, important comments – ALWAYS SUPERVISE YOUR DOG AROUND THE BABY, for at least the first year. Second, try your best to keep the dog’s schedule the same as it always was, further reducing stress for your pup. Good luck!