Expanding your family is an exciting time, but it can be frightening and stressful for your dog. These four strategies will help prepare Rover, so everyone can welcome home your new bundle of joy with excitement and happiness.
Strategy #1: Back to School
If your dog is fully trained, it may be time for a refresher course. For dogs that have never experienced obedience training, now is the time. Small habits that have developed can turn into big problems once you have a baby in your arm – such as pups that jump up to greet.
A few key skills to work on with your dog and trainer:
A strong command of sit, stay and lie down commands. Your dog needs trained to verbal commands because your hands may be too full for a hand command.
The drop it command is vital. Baby's things will be full of new scents and flavors that may entice your pup to investigate.
A go away command is an important one for your dog. Not only does it help you control your dog's behavior, many dogs don't seem aware that they can leave if the baby makes them uncomfortable. Giving them permission with this command can be a relief for your dog.
Polite greetings are an important skill for your dog to learn, especially once a little one is added to the family. You don't want your dog jumping, barking or otherwise greeting in a way that may startle or hurt the child.
Crate training may also help your dog relax. Begin able to retreat to a safe location gives many dogs the ability to cope with stress and change better.
Strategy #2: Baby Training
Your home will change once the baby is born. Take the time to set up swings, cribs and other baby furniture ahead of time to help ease the transition later. It is worth it to use a doll for a month or two to help your dog adjust to the upcoming changes. Carry the doll, put it to sleep and keep it nearby so your dog can adjust to his best friend now caring for another tiny person.
If your dog has never been around children, it may be worth it to start taking him to the park or inviting over friends with kids. Keep your dog on a leash at first and closely monitor all interactions until you are sure your dog is comfortable and unafraid.
Strategy #3: Plan Ahead
If there will be rule changes down the road, begin implementing them now. Things such as off-limit rooms or a change in the walking schedule are easily to enforce gradually before the baby arrives.
It's impossible to foresee all changes in your daily routine, but plan for as many as possible. For example, if your days were previously filled with a couple of long visits to the park, begin adjusting your pup to shorter, closer to home play or cuddle sessions. For the first few weeks after baby is home, at least, long play dates with your dog may not be possible.
Strategy #4: Get Help
After baby arrives, you may need help. If you find that you are unable to give your dog the attention he deserves, you can temporarily employee a dog walker to come play with and walk your dog. Don't ignore your dog completely, but don't be afraid to ask for help during this busy time in your life.
Dogs usually adjust to new family members quickly and welcome the baby as a new member of the pack. Taking the time to prepare your pup can help ease this transition. For more help, try contacting a company such as Canine Behavior Center with any questions or concerns you might have.