By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind
The stork is going to be paying a visit to some dear friends of mine early next year, and so it’s the perfect time to review the things you can do to make the addition of the new bundle of joy easier on your dog (and, by extension, your entire family).
Be proactive! Don’t wait until the day before baby arrives to start training your pooch. If there are behavior issues you are concerned about, get out there and start working on them today. Call in a professional dog trainer if necessary, or check out programs like the ones offered by Family Paws.
Familiarize your dog with babies. If your dog has never seen a stroller or heard an infant’s cry, you’ll want to make those introductions before baby arrives. If you have friends or relatives with babies, make a date to spend some time with them. Some dogs can be tentative around unfamiliar objects, so allow him to sniff and experience the nuances of items such as strollers, baby wipes, and noise-making toys.
Teach your dog to wait at the top and bottom of stairs. This little trick will prevent the possibility of tripping over your dog while you are carrying the baby up and down the stairs. (Also, if you are using a flexi-lead – get rid of it now and start using a regular 6’ leash.)
Get your dog his own bed. You may not want your dog on the bed or sofa with the baby, especially if you are nursing. Get a super-duper plush dog bed and start introducing him to it as an alternative. But remember to spend some time on the floor with your dog, as you want to avoid any potential of him becoming too possessive over his new special spot. Another idea is to give him a dog bed for each highly used area of the house, so he always has somewhere to “go lie down.”
Prepare for visitors. If your dog has a habit of jumping up or being timid around visitors, address this immediately. Put some treats outside your door and ask pre-baby visitors to offer him a treat if he displays good manners – aim for “four on the floor”, and only give attention to him when he has all four paws in contact with the ground. If your dog isn’t already crate-trained, get started on that right away; that will give him a place to retreat when things get overwhelming, and it will help you to know that your dog is safe when people are going in and out the front door. You don’t want to add “searching for your lost dog” to your to-do list.
Get a dog walker. Things can get pretty hectic with a newborn, and it’s in your dog’s best interest to have some fun while you are busy with baby. Additionally, make it a priority to spend quality time with your dog, even if it’s just a few minutes a day. Although dogs are known and revered for their resilience in new situations, remember that your dog had been your “baby” for a long time. Do what you can to make sure that your dog doesn’t resent his new housemate, while maintaining the rules and consistency already established.