Parenting kids often coincides with dog ownership like salt complements pepper or a fine wine pairs with a perfect meal. Other times parenting dogs and children collide like a Category Five Hurricane making landfall. To say that bringing home a baby to an already established pet can be a little stormy is an understatement. Here are a five ways to prepare your dog to meet the new baby. I have also included some affiliate links. You won’t pay any more if you purchase through my links, but I’ll make a small commission.
Make sure your dog follows basic commands like “Sit,” “Come,” “Stay,” and “Leave It.” This way, the dog will more quickly learn boundaries when you bring home baby. Also, establish a specific place for your dog—a kennel, a crate, or a bed—where the dog goes when you are busy with the baby. He needs to know that the crib is not his bed.
Teach your dog not to jump when they greet you or new visitors. The last thing you need is an 80 pound Labrador pawing your C-Section scar.
In an incredibly information-packed article titled “Dogs and Babies,” the ASPCA suggests teaching your dog the command “Go Away” before the baby arrives. This command seems a little cold and heartbreaking, but it’s a great way to establish boundaries for your baby AND for your pet. When babies begin to crawl, they can threaten a dog’s space and completely freak your pet out. If the dog understands that he can move away from the baby rather than growl or nip, all parties will be happier and all potential storms averted.
According to the article, you teach your dog to go away by giving the command and tossing a treat a few feet away. Do this several times. As the dog gets used to the behavior, give the command before throwing the treat. As the dog moves away, praise him and throw the treat. Continue to ask the dog for a few more steps away each time before throwing the treat.
If he gets really good at this trick, you can add “Go away and get me a soda.” If you manage to teach him “Go away and pour me some wine,” you might just break the Internet with that video.
Prepare Your Dog to Meet the New Baby by Setting Up New Routines
Babies change household routines in a monumental way. Once the baby comes home, you’ll probably forget to do basic things like eating and taking a shower because sleep deprivation steals brain cells. Your poor dog won’t know what happened to you if you don’t ready her in some way for this new spit-up covered version of yourself. Get your dog used to being fed at different times before the baby comes home. This is one of the most critical steps you’ll take to properly prepare your dog to meet the new baby. You may want to consider investing in an automatic feeder to make sure your furry friend doesn’t starve while you try to figure out your new baby’s schedule.
Fencing your yard so your dog doesn’t have to rely on you to walk her might not be a bad idea either. Wireless fencing with the receiver collars are a good option. Strolling the baby around the neighborhood in order to walk Fido seems like a pretty standard thing to do in the weeks before delivery. Everyone gets exercise and fresh air until all are happy, right? HA! In the week or so after I brought home my babies, all I wanted to do was sleep. I think I forgot that I even had a dog. Being able to turn my hound out to do her business on her own was a blessing. At least one of us could pee alone.
Introduce New Sights and Smells
If you’re a dog, babies smell weird. They make terrifying noises, and they look funny. Help your dog adjust before your baby comes home. The ASPCA advises dog owners to use some of the lotions and soaps on themselves so the dog can get used to the new smell. This means you can wash all your clothes and the baby’s clothes in Dreft because that stuff smells heavenly.
To acclimate your dog to all those bizarre baby noises, consider taking a video of a friend’s baby when it cries. Play it for your dog and give her some treats so that she’ll learn to associate those noises with positive reinforcement. If you don’t have access to a loud baby, consider a baby sound CD or download.
Once baby has arrived, you may want to send home a blanket or onesie that the baby has been wrapped in for the dog to sniff before the initial meeting. If your dog is like mine, she will probably prefer sniffing the diaper pail anyway.
Orchestrate the First Meeting
The ASPCA advises you to have help when you bring the baby home. Since your new baby will probably have an entourage, this shouldn’t be a problem. Send everyone else in, preferably with treats, so the dog can get his initial wags and excitement out. Have someone leash the dog so he doesn’t get excited and put his paw in your stitches by accident. Stay calm so your dog won’t worry about you or the bundle in your arms. Have your helper keep the dog somewhat distracted with treats as you slowly reveal the complete life-changer you are carrying in your arms. As your dog shows signs of calmly checking out the baby, praise him. Try not to scold him right away. He’ll hear enough of that when he discovers the magical pail of poopy diapers.
For more information to help you better prepare your dog to meet the new baby, you might want to check out Dr. Lewis Kirkham’s book, Tell Your Dog You’re Pregnant: An Essential Guide for Dog Owners Expecting a Baby.
Remember, parenthood—both human and pet—is full of magical adoration with a side order of fecal matter and spit up. Enjoy this time, storms and all. Don’t expect to be perfect at parenting both your canine and human right out of the gate. Luckily for new parents, most dogs and babies are forgiving. If you properly prepare your dog to meet the new baby, you’ll guarantee the start of a beautiful friendship.