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How To Prepare Your Dog For a New Baby
When done correctly, your dog and new baby can grow up together and be the best of friends BUT you must think ahead and have a plan in place. Training is key as well as allowing your dog time to adjust before the baby arrives.
Body language is also a very important factor. You must know your dog and his body language so that you can correct and redirect when you notice that your dog is not happy or comfortable in a certain situation.
Dogs and Babies
You and your pup have been best buds since the day you brought them home. They’ve been your right-hand (er, paw?) sidekick for most of their life. Training was tough in the beginning, but now you all are sailing smoothly, living each day to the max.
But then the news came. You’re pregnant. And while a new baby is certainly cause for celebration, there’s also a little voice inside the back of your head, worrying about how bringing a new child into the family might impact your dog’s behavior.
Will the baby be safe?
Will the dog retaliate and revert to their early days of poor house manners?
What can I do to make sure nothing bad happens?
These are all valid questions, but fortunately for you, we have the answers!
Read on to find out some common (and effective) ways to prepare your dog for a new baby. Beginning with making a plan!
Can Dogs Sense that a Baby is on the Way?
Before we get into the steps you should take to prepare your dog for a new baby, let’s first look at what dogs can and can’t pick up on, regarding your pregnancy.
Do Dogs Have a 6th Sense?
Firstly, dogs do not have some sort of sixth sense that allows them to know you’ve got a baby growing inside of your womb. Dogs are limited to the same five senses of perception that we are.
However – and this is important – a dog can smell changes in your body.
Their noses are a primary source of detection, and for them, even the most unnoticeable change in body chemistry is something they’re likely to pick up on.
When a woman becomes pregnant, she goes through hormonal changes that can indeed change the way her body smells to a dog. In this case, a dog would certainly notice that something is different.
But again, it’s important to note here that this detection of bodily change is not something dogs immediately associate with pregnancy.
Scientific studies have yet to conclude this is at all possible.
Another thing you might keep in mind though is that a dog with whom you share a close connection will also be sensitive to changes in your movements, size, and mood.
This, coupled with new smells, could cause your dog to act a little unusual, as it adjusts to your rapidly changing body, demeanor, and hormone levels.
What to Watch Out For
While dogs might not be able to pinpoint that their pet parent is pregnant, they might modify their behavior to cope with your physical and emotional changes.
This behavioral change in your dearest doggo can manifest in many ways, with aggression well within the range of possibilities.
If your dog begins to exhibit body language or actions that signal an overprotectiveness towards you, be mindful to discourage these behaviors as soon as they begin.
You must condition your dog to understand that although changes are occurring with their human, it isn’t anything to worry about.
Dogs are sensitive creatures and upsetting the normalcy they’ve come to expect with you and your home is concerning to them. So, as you change, your dog might become irritable or even territorial.
As we said, you must nip these behavioral shifts in the bud before they become a habit.
How to Help Curtail Bad Manners
When preparing your dog for a new baby, also preparing yourself mentally to work with your dog to minimize its newly developed bad habits is important. A few key ways in which might consider easing their stress levels and correcting any missteps include:
If you’ve read any of our other blogs, you’ll know we stand by good exercise as the number one way to evoke the desired temperament from your dog when they’re in the home. The same principle applies here, too.
Get them out and about enough, and you’re likely to enjoy a more docile hound in the home.
You’re a part of the pack. Dogs thrive on social interaction with their owners.
Setting aside 20-30 minutes of daily quality time will help them feel reassured, as your pregnancy continues.
This includes walks – keep them to just you and Rover, to avoid overstimulation or disputes between members of the pack.
Reward Desired Behavior
In general, whenever you want to encourage an action, reward your dog with high praise every time it does the right thing.
Treats, a happy vocal pitch, and head scratches are all among the best ways to show your dog it’s on the right track.
When to Start Preparing
When exactly you start preparing your dog for a new baby varies, but one could make the argument that preparations should start immediately. The more time you can devote to readying your dog for its first meeting with your newborn, the better.
Preparing Your Dog for Important New (Or Not So New) Skills
How to prepare your dog for a new baby is also a mixed bag, although training is always a smart place to start. Your dog should be obedient and responsive to a handful of commands by the time you’re approaching your final month of pregnancy.
Some Helpful Commands Your Dog Should Know
Verbal cues are key here. Once the baby comes you will most likely have your hands full if not with a squirmy baby then with toys, clothes, and any other plethora of items that come with having a baby in the home. Therefore your dog MUST be proficient with responding to verbal cues.
Teaching your dog manners and self-control is paramount.
Also, be sure to teach your dog to respond to verbal commands while you’re standing, sitting, lying down or any other position other than standing. You want to make sure that your dog is responding to verbal commands and not body cues (ie. standing in front of the dog while giving the command).
Also, be sure that all members in your household are being consistent with the cues so as not to confuse your dog.
- Down – all four paws on the floor.
- Attention – to get them to focus on you.
- Sit – to get them to put bum to floor.
- Down-Stay – to have them lay where they are and stay.
- Stay – to put a stop to whatever they’re doing.
- Wait – to instill some patience in the face of their eagerness.
- Settle – lay down and relax with no expectation of getting back up soon.
- Easy – to lighten up their romp.
- Crate – to direct them to their safe place.
- Come – to bring them your way.
- Away – to send them off on their own.
- Leave It – to not touch anything that has fallen on the floor.
- Heel – to walk alongside you nicely. (This will be helpful when walking your dog and pushing a stroller at the same time). This will be a skill that you will want to practice BEFORE trying it with a baby!
A combination of these phrases will ensure you have the right lineup of commands at your disposal.
And as we’ve said before, good training relies on good rewards. Don’t get frustrated with your dog if it doesn’t pick up on these commands right away. Be patient, give extra love and treats, and you’ll have a well-trained and practiced pup long in advance of your due date.
How to Start Preparing
Alright. Now for what you came here to read.
Here are some of the top ways to prepare your dog for a new baby. To make it easy, we’re calling this list the “Six S’s of Success!”
The more you can familiarize your dog with the baby’s scent, the better.
Now naturally, your child isn’t here yet, so acclimating your dog to their smell is hard to do.
But you can allow them to become familiar with new furniture, toys, swaddles, and the like. That way, when the baby comes home, the only new thing to your dog is the additional, tiny pack member themselves (and the noise that they bring).
A slight variation of this comes in after delivery, but before you come home.
Have your spouse or another family member bring one of your newborn’s blankets home ahead of time so your pup can get used to that smell, too. The fewer new variables for Fido to figure out, the better.
It might seem ridiculous but trust us. It works.
Play your dog some YouTube videos or sound clips with baby noises in them. The sounds an infant makes are going to be unlike any your dog will probably have heard in its entire life. Growing them accustomed to these coos, cries, and laughs will train them to understand that a baby’s sounds aren’t a threat or something to grow anxious over.
Routine is everything to a dog. Everything. So why would we tell you to completely change it up on them? Because whether they like it or not, a baby means new routines for a dog’s human handlers.
Think of a new baby as a sort of starting-over period for both you and your dog.
Consider how your days will change with the presence of a newborn and try to adjust your dog’s schedule based on those predictions. You probably won’t get it 100% – let’s face it, you can’t ever really plan for a child perfectly – but you can get pretty darn close.
Would it shock you to know that dogs sometimes become fearful of tiny humans? It’s true!
A baby is foreign to a dog that’s only grown up around adult owners.
So, make sure to give your dog a safe space to run to if it feels worried. We suggest a crate, but a small, dark room or dog bed out of baby’s reach are also good alternatives.
Socialization isn’t just about your dog getting to know other dogs. It’s also about them getting to know other people.
If you have any younger relatives, consider a few playdates between your dog and your tiny family member to get the former in the right headspace. This will also give you a good baseline for what undesirable behaviors you’ll need to work out before your due date.
Additional Preparations Before Baby Comes
All new routines should be established and the dog should be comfortable with them long before bringing home the new baby.
If you do not already confine your dog to a ‘safe space’ to eat its meals, you should start doing that now. Teaching your dog to eat at specific times in a separate area, whether it is behind closed doors, a kennel, or any other barrier type area, will eliminate any possibilities of a baby being bit due to bothering your dog while it’s eating.
Start doing this now so it’s one less adjustment it has to make once the baby arrives.
Start setting up your baby equipment ahead of time (although I’m sure most parents-to-be already do this) so that your dog has time to adjust to the new changes and scents taking place in your home.
Make Furniture Off-Limits
Dogs can be very territorial when they are on the furniture. Train your dog that being on the furniture is not allowed (that includes your bed). Instead, get him a really comfy bed of his own that he can sleep on and encourage him to go to that when he wants up on the furniture.
If you plan on restricting access to rooms that he currently has access to, then start teaching him the boundaries long before the baby arrives.
Socialize Your Dog With Children/Babies
If your dog has never been around children or babies it is extremely important that you start to socialize your dog immediately. This must be done carefully though, so as he does not have a bad experience with them, which will make it much harder for your dog and new baby to co-exist safely.
Once The Baby Arrives
So you’ve done all of the training, preparations and changes. And the baby is here! Now what?
Assuming that you’ve done all of the preparation now is the time to see how the dog handles living with the new baby.
The NUMBER ONE thing should be that you NEVER leave that baby alone with the dog EVER! Babies, toddlers, and children should always be supervised when the dog is near them. Even the gentlest, best-trained dog can be unpredictable – remember they are animals!
Always watch your dog’s body language and know how to read it. If you begin to see any signs of agitation coming from your dog it is vital that you remove the dog from the situation IMMEDIATELY. Many babies are injured because their parents/caretakers did not read their dog’s body language correctly.
Warning Signs That Your Dog Is Stressed Out
Some signs that your dog is stressed out that you should be looking out for:
- Tongue-flicking or licking lips.
- Not making eye contact and looking away.
- Moving away from your child.
- Excessive yawning.
- Excessive scratching not related to allergies.
- Panting not related to heat or exertion.
If your dog exhibits any of these signs then you should immediately remove your dog from the situation.
What If My Dog Is Not Reacting Well To My Baby?
Unfortunately, sometimes no matter how much training and preparation you’ve given your dog, he just doesn’t like babies or children.
At this point you basically have two options:
- Seek the help of a certified trainer or behaviorist for additional assistance; or
- Rehome your dog.
I know that no one wants to even think about having to rehome their dog as they are part of the family. But the bottom line is that if you’ve exhausted all other options and your dog just doesn’t like children, it is the safest option for both the child and the dog.
Yes, you may be able to keep the dog separated from the baby and not let them interact, but is that fair to the dog? He will never be able to just ‘hang out’ with the family and he will certainly not get the attention he deserves or is used to.
And then the possibility exists that a mistake is made and he gets access to the baby. It only takes a couple of seconds for a tragedy to occur.
So realize that you always risk the possibility that your dog is not compatible with children and have a plan in place.
“If, after working with a professional and on your own, you are still not 100% confident about the safety of your baby with your dog, then finding your dog another home to protect the well-being of your child and pet is a step you may have to take.” cesarsway.com
Some Final Thoughts
Dogs and humans have made wonderful companions for centuries.
However, when preparing your dog for a new baby, you must be honest about what you’re observing.
If your dog displays any signs of aggression or isn’t responding well to training, you should seek professional help immediately. Both the SPCA and your local veterinary hospital will have a wide assortment of resources to help you out with more difficult doggos.