Tips & Training
How to Prepare Your Dog for a Baby (a Dog Lover’s Guide)
The ultimate list of DO's and DON'Ts in how to prepare your dog for a baby - keeping your newborn, you and your dog happy and healthy.
Copy: Serena Faber Nelson
Photography: Serena Faber Nelson
Google ‘How to Prepare Your Dog for a Baby’ and you’ll get an infinite number of responses.
Now that I’m the home stretch of my own pregnancy I’ve been researching like nothing else to prepare myself, and Soda for the changes that lie ahead.
Trouble is, a lot of these so-called ‘guides’ are written by baby and ‘mommy’ sites which have all the focus on the newborn and pretty much treat the dog like a troublesome piece of furniture. Seriously. When I first found out I was pregnant I couldn’t believe some of the awful, misguided information that was out there. I even read one guide that said to teach your dog to expect to miss a meal every so often!
Well that’s not going to happen on my watch. Here at Pretty Fluffy we believe dogs are an important and integral part of the family – valued and loved just as much as every other member. Therefore this guide not only comes from months of research and expert fact checking, it also comes from the heart.
If you are expecting, and want a happy and healthy environment for your new baby, your family AND your pooch, here are our top tips to help you out…
The number one thing you can do to keep your dog happy, healthy and calm during the arrival of your new baby? A daily walk.
You can buy your dog every dog treat, toy and fancy collar under the sun, but without a daily outlet to release their energy and get outside even the best dogs become depressed and destructive.
While looking after a newborn AND taking your dog for a walk seems like mission impossible, with a little bit of planning it can be done. As soon as you find out you’re expecting follow this guide:
DO start to vary the times of walks and outings. That way while your dog still gets their daily walk, they don’t get into a routine of expecting at a certain time of day. Because really, if you’ve been up with a baby all night, is Fido’s 6am walk time going to sound that appealing?
DO start to vary who goes on walks and outings. Don’t leave the dog walking up to one family member. Your pup needs to learn to be comfortable being taken out by a number of people. That way when one of you is occupied, the other one can step in and go for the walk. (We started doing this and my husband affectionately calls them ‘Daddy/Daughter’ walks!)
DO consider enrolling your dog in doggie daycare or enlisting a local dog walker to help out if it all seems too much. Knowing your dog is enjoying him time away from the house will do you both good.
DON’T wing it. Make a plan of how you are going to keep up your dog’s regular activity and stick to it. This is a non negotiable. A well exercised dog is a happy dog.
If up until this point, your household has had a laissez-faire attitude to rules – it’s time to make a change.
Once you find out you’re pregnant there’s no better time to teach or reinforce your dog’s basic training and understanding of house rules. By you clearly making it known that you’re the pack leader, your dog will feel secure in their place in the pack when the baby comes.
DO ensure your dog understands basic commands such as sit, drop and stay. Enlist a dog trainer’s help if necessary, as these commands will be invaluable when you’re introducing fur-child number one to human child number two. When training, always use positive reinforcement methods such as treats and praise. This will not only get the best results, but it will strengthen the bond between you and your pup.
DO clearly define any ‘off-limit’ zones in the house prior to the baby’s arrival. If the nursery is to be a no-go zone, get your dog used to this months before your due date. That way your dog will not associate being excluded with the presence of the baby.
DON’T introduce new rules when you bring the baby home. Like the ‘off-limit’ zones, work on these new boundaries during your pregnancy. If your dog will no longer be allowed on the furniture, or discouraged from jumping up, teach them these new rules prior to the baby’s arrival.
Prepare them for new things
With a new baby, your dog is going to be bombarded with a whole truckload of new smells, sounds and experiences. By introducing these to your dog in a gradual way, you can help prevent an all out assault on their sense when the baby first comes home.
DO get your dog used to the sounds a new baby will make. A great resource for this is the book and audio CD, Tell Your Dog You’re Pregnant – I HIGHLY recommend this book for any dog owner having a child. Through the exercises in this book you get to see how your dog reacts to all sorts of baby sounds. (For the record, Soda couldn’t care less about the baby sounds on the CD – where as my husband and I wanted to turn off the horrendous crying noise after a minute!!) Read our full review of the book here.
DO let them sniff some of the baby’s things. When you’re in hospital, send home a blanket or wrap that has your baby’s scent on it. Get your dog to sit calmly and then allow them to sniff the item. This allows them to get used to the new smell, while also associating their calm behaviour with the scent.
DON’T bombard them with baby gadgets in one go. In the lead up to birth, allow you dog to see the new baby gear up close and personal. Wheel the stroller around, fill up the baby bath, turn the baby swing on…whatever you are planning on using when the baby comes home, get your dog used to it beforehand. The last thing you want is your dog chasing the stroller wheels on baby’s first outing!
Promote a safe and calm space
During pregnancy and the lead up to birth, things can get very stressful very quickly. It’s a whole new adventure for all of you.
By promoting a safe and calm space within the home, you will ensure not only your dog remains happy and healthy, but the whole family does.
DO provide a safe, warm space for your dog to curl up in away from the baby. Knowing they have this space to themselves will offer them a retreat if needed.
DON’T decide now is the time to move your indoors dog to being an outdoors dog. Your dog is a pack animal and banishing them outdoors to make room for a new baby will make them feel alone and confused.
DON’T raise your voice at your dog when stressed. Your dog will pick up on your stress levels and internalise your stress. If you’re frustrated or upset, leave the room and take a few deep breaths. Rely on your dog’s training and positive reinforcement in a calm manner and you’ll encourage calm behaviour in your dog.
At the Birth
You never know when a baby is going to decide to turn up! But the last thing you want is the whole family rushing off in the middle of the night and no-one returning for days leaving pooch all alone.
DO have a plan. Before you pack your hospital bag, plan who is going to care for your dog while you are in hospital having the baby. Make sure they know all the requirements for caring for your dog, including emergency contacts.
DON’T enlist the help of a stranger. Ensure whoever is going to look after your dog comes over and gets to know your dog prior to caring for them. Make sure they are comfortable on walks and with feeding. That way your dog will welcome them with open arms when they come at the time of the birth.
DO greet your dog as normal when you return home – don’t have your focus all on the new baby. Your dog has missed you while you’ve been away and by returning home just like it’s a regular day will keep things as normal and calm as possible.
Plan Alone Time
For a lot of dogs, they came first. Many were on the scene long before any partners or children came along.
While your time is now limited, it’s important to carve out alone time with your dog on a regular basis to keep the bond between the two of you strong.
DO spend quality one-on-one time with your dog every day. This is not only for their benefit, but yours too. Some time out together – even just a short cup of tea in the sun or a game of fetch – will recharge you both, promoting a happy healthy family for everyone.
How to Prepare Your Dog for a Baby: What are your tips for preparing your dog for a new family member (two legged or four legged!)?
Copy: Serena Faber Nelson
Photography: Serena Faber Nelson