How to get your dog ready for a baby
Having a baby is a major life adjustment, one that requires lots of planning and preparation. If you’ve got a dog who has been used to your undivided attention until now, then the arrival of a baby is going to mean big changes for them as well as you. Here’s how to get your dog ready for a baby.
Preparing your dog for the arrival of a baby
There are a number of things you can do to prepare your dog for the arrival of a baby. By making small adjustments to your dog’s daily routine during your pregnancy, you can minimise the impact of the changes on your dog once your baby is born. Here’s what to do:
- Think about the likely changes to your dog’s routine with the arrival of the baby. You can then start to introduce these changes during your pregnancy. For example, you may need to give your dog shorter walks, they may need to be left alone for longer periods of time or you may choose to limit their access to some areas of the house when your baby is born.
- Get your dog used to the sound of babies. You can use sound therapy to introduce your dog to the sound of babies crying and children playing. Gradually introduce your dog to these different sounds with the help of this useful sound therapy tool.
- Familiarise your dog with new equipment, such as a pram or pushchair, baby gates, bouncers, slings or carriers. It’s a good idea to get your dog used to walking alongside the pram or pushchair before your baby is born, even if you do get some unusual looks from the neighbours!
- Practice holding and carrying a doll like a baby so that your dog is less inquisitive, and learns to be quiet and gentle with the new addition to your family.
- Train your dog to go to their bed or crate on cue (e.g. in response to a verbal command from you). That way, if you’re busy or have your hands full, you can ask your dog to remain in a place out of the way.
Do give your dog lots of praise and rewards as you introduce these changes. This will help them to learn and adjust to the changes in a positive way. If you are concerned about any aspects of your dog’s behaviour, you should seek help from a qualified dog behaviourist before your baby is born.
Watch this video produced by The Dogs Trust on how to prepare your dog for a baby.
How you may feel about your dog when your baby arrives
As well as big changes to your daily routine and lifestyle, you may also experience different feelings towards your dog.
Imagine this scenario. You’re expecting your first baby. Up until now your dog has been your baby, and you can’t imagine how you could love a baby as much as your dog. However, with the arrival of your baby everything feels different. Suddenly your dog irritates you, you’re worried they are going to harm your baby or bark just when you’ve got them to sleep. You’re so exhausted but your dog needs to be walked, and there are muddy footprints everywhere. Things are so bad, you’re even contemplating giving your dog up for adoption.
As hard as this scenario may be to imagine, those who have gone through the experience of introducing a baby into a home with a dog will tell you that these feelings can be real. The good news is that it does pass as you adjust to life with a newborn baby.
Getting extra help with your dog
In the first few months with your new baby, you may want to think about employing the services of a dog walker or doggy day care. That way you can be reassured that your dog is continuing to get the attention and exercise they need as you adjust to your new routine.
Dogs and safety around babies
You may be wondering if it is safe to have dogs around babies. The advice from dog experts is that you should never leave a dog unsupervised with a baby or a child, and to teach children how to behave around and play with dogs in a kind and safe way. Here’s the RSPCA’s six golden rules for keeping dogs safe and children happy.
There are many videos circulating on social media of young children cuddling dogs. However, dog experts warn that this can be dangerous. As much you think you know or trust your dog, remember that it would only take a split second for them to respond aggressively with a growl or a snap if they were fed up with the attention or feeling anxious. The best thing to do is to teach your child from an early age the importance of kind and sensible behaviour around dogs. That way you will have happy dogs and happy children.