Sometimes the nine months of pregnancy can feel painfully long – as the baby grows, you grow more impatient to meet him or her. What will they look like? Will they have their Dad’s nose? (Hopefully not). Will they have their Grandpa’s musical talent? (Hopefully so). Will they be a peaceful sleeper from the get-go (don’t get your hopes up) or will they squawk like a deranged chicken every two hours? (Probably – but they grow out of it, we promise).
But the precious pregnancy time also seems to fly by as you get everything ready – the house, the nursery, the car etc. for the arrival of the cherished new-born. As dog owners, however, there is also the importance of preparing the dog for the imminent descent of a new human into the fold.
Dogs may well pick up on the growing excitement, but they will be wholly unprepared psychologically for the arrival of a new member of the pack – for them this thing lands on the doorstep overnight with no getting used to the idea! It can be quite dramatic for a dog as it may well mean an unexpected change in lifestyle, and a suddenly different day-to-day routine. Dogs, in general, are keen on knowing what comes next and what is expected of them: it gives them comfort and stability.
A new baby can mean a host of changes in their well-known set-up: less attention, fewer or shorter walks, being left on their own for longer periods than before, certain rooms in the house being ‘out of bounds’ etc. In addition, babies bring with them a host of new smells and sounds.
“Son of a Sea Cook! I had never even thought about that!” We hear you say. (No? That phrase just us? It’s a good one though…feel free to try it out.) Well, the good news is that there is a lot that you can do to prepare your dog for the arrival of the new family member to ensure that pup is well prepared for bub. Here are a few ideas….
As with everything in life (when will we learn?) the earlier you start preparing your dog, the better. They will be able to adjust accordingly and at their own pace.
Set up lots of the baby-related equipment slowly and over time throughout the house so that the dog has time to get used to it all. Anything from high chairs to toys and playpens, baby gates, baby gyms, mobiles, even the buggy – bring it all into the house well before baby is born. Let the dog have a really good sniff of the lot – so that it is all familiar and comfortable.
Find a baby sounds track online and start playing it a low volume daily while your dog is doing something that they enjoy – for example tucking into their delicious Nature’s Harvest Grain Free chicken & Sweet Potato dinner, or playing their favourite game. You can steadily and carefully increase the volume as doggo gets used to it, meaning that the first time he hears baby cry, it will not be an alien noise.
Change up the routine before baby does
It is impossible to know what sort of a routine your baby will have when you bring them home from the hospital. For a while, day becomes night and night becomes day, and no one knows whether they are Arthur or Martha. It is impossible, therefore, to predict exactly how your dog’s routine will change, but do your best to pre-empt what might happen, and try to introduce various elements of the new post-baby world, before baby appears. This might mean, for example:
– Giving dog less attention
– Giving dog shorter walks
– Bringing in more visitors than usual
– Restricting access to baby’s room
Prepare your dog for real life situations
It’s a good idea to have a think about the situations your dog will need to get used to once the baby comes, and prepare. Here are a few ideas of useful scenarios to practice:
Walking calmly alongside a buggy
This will mean you can have more relaxing walks (when you are not stopping every 2 minutes to feed/calm/change your baby. Oh happy days!) Take the buggy out with the dog before the baby’s arrival a good few times and use some treats to help train dog to walk along calmly and without pulling. Nature’s Harvest SO SMART Training Treats are excellent to use as reward treats.
Not jumping up at baby
Finding one of those life-like dolls and carrying it around might make your toes curl a little, but it is a useful way to introduce the idea to the dog and to train him not to jump up – only getting a treat or attention when his feet stay on the ground.
Getting Recall NAILED
It is much harder to run around the park chasing after a dog who won’t come back when you have a small human attached to you, or in a buggy that you can’t just park up for a while. Ensuring that your dog comes when called will give you peace of mind and will make trips out so much less stressful (they will still be a BIT stressful with a new baby. Sorry. Truth bomb NHHQ here.) Work on recall before becoming a parent – there are loads of helpful videos online, or you can seek professional assistance. It will be worth it!
Get your dog used to being handled all over
Babies are RUBBISH at not poking at dogs. We have yet to meet a baby who didn’t have a go at pulling at a tail, or grab a handful of fur. Taking the time to get your dog used to being handled all over before the baby arrives, by teaching them that every time you touch a different part of their body something good happens, such as they get a special delicious treat, will help get dog used to the manhandling.
Having said this: When your miniature human arrives, NEVER leave dog and baby together unsupervised. Always be there and actively supervise any interaction. Do not ever leave them alone, no matter how placid your dog, or how convinced you are by their bond.
Right then. Are you prepared? We hope so. Have you read all the books? Have you watched the birthing videos? Have you been to hypnobirthing practice? Good! Then it will all be a piece of cake…..(cue evil laugh*)
*NHHQ only gets to do evil laugh because NHHQ had 9lb baby who didn’t sleep for a year and a half and cried every waking moment for four months non-stop. We have earned right to evil laugh. Said baby is a total joy now, by the way. A breeze. So we can also look back without bitterness. Much bitterness. Without MUCH bitterness.