You’ve just had the exciting news that you’re expecting a baby. You couldn’t be more excited, but is your four-legged member of the family likely to be as excited as you?
A new baby is a big change in routine and family dynamics for the family pet. It’s important to prepare your family dog for the new arrival to make the transition as seamless and stress-free as possible for all members of the family.
Read on to discover how to best prepare your family dog for the arrival of your baby, to make the process as stress-free as possible for you, your baby and your beloved dog.
- Start early
The earlier in your pregnancy you begin preparing your dog for the new arrival, the easier the transition will be when your baby arrives.
It’s best to begin with the basics, make sure your dog comes when called and can sit on request. Practise this behaviour frequently and offer rewards. It’s important your dog listens to you and does as you ask when the baby arrives, so begin reinforcing this behaviour as early as possible in preparation.
Address problematic behaviour in preparation for the arrival of a baby. If your dog jumps on you or your guests in greeting, focus on teaching them alternate behaviour. It could be dangerous to be jumped on by your dog while holding your baby.
For those dogs that have slept on the sofa, encourage them to relax on their bed instead and reward with treats to encourage this behaviour going forward.
- Lead Walking
Introduce your dog to the pushchair as early as possible. Practise walking your dog comfortably on the lead beside the pushchair, so you can make the most of family walks once the baby arrives.
- Baby noises
There’s no denying that new babies can make a lot of noise. Help your dog become comfortable with these foreign noises by exposing them to baby cries and gurgles before your new addition arrives.
Try some recordings of baby noises from Youtube. Initially play the audio quietly, gradually increase the volume over time. While the sounds are on and your dog is calm, reward with treats.
If the noise worries your pup, turn the audio off and try again at a lower volume. It’s important to keep these experiences fun and positive at all times.
Your dog needs to observe the new body language they can expect from you once the baby is on the scene. Start to spend some time holding a doll, walking with the doll and cradling the doll, so your dog observes and becomes familiar with the new soon-to-be normal body language.
Drop treats when your dog is calm and goes to their bed, or ignores you holding the doll. Once they have mastered this behaviour, add in the baby noises while holding the doll. Reward calm behaviour with a treat.
It’s likely with sleep deprivation and new routines and responsibilities your dog’s exercise may initially be compromised. Over time gradually reduce your dog’s exercise routine to prepare them for the impending changes.
If you would like to set up a plan to help prepare your dog for your new arrival, or you’re concerned by your dog’s behaviour around children, seek advice from a qualified trainer.
Kelly McFarlane is a Behavioural Consultant with over 20 years of hands-on experience communicating with, training and socialising family dogs. Kelly can work with you and your family to create a personalised plan for you and your dog to address any underlying reasons for your dog’s behaviour.
Kelly offers both in-home and online consultations, so she can help families throughout New Zealand.