You’re Having A Baby!
You’ve had fur babies forever but this is a “human” baby! “What can I do to make sure both baby & dog enjoy each others company?” Believe it or not, your dog probably already knew you were pregnant. They too, are baby-makers & sense the changes in & around you. For a smooth transition, focus on (i) familiarizing your dog with the expected new addition, (ii) keep dogs’ minds at peace so they know they have nothing of which to be jealous & (iii) take your pets to your veterinarian. There are going to be plenty of things about having a baby to stress you out – don’t let this be one of them! Let’s look at what can be done before your baby arrives so you have more time to take those once-in-a-lifetime pictures, capturing those special moments shared between both your babies.
Familiarize To The “New”
If your dog hasn’t had many interactions with babies, it’s a good idea to get them familiar with the newIf your dog hasn’t had many interactions with babies, it’s a good idea to get them familiar with the new sights,, sounds, and , and smells that will be a part of their lives just as much as they will be part of yours. Create a positive association with furniture by letting dogs sniff new baby items & then offer them a treat you know they like. The same goes for infant swings, toys, & baby mats. Doing so helps dogs make the connection that these foreign objects are nothing to fear but rather something that gets them a reward! You can substitute the treats for toys or praise if either holds higher value for your particular pooch. Spend time in the nursery once it’s prepared. Spend time on your tablet or read for leisure. Your pets will grow to know it’s just another room you spend time in. It’s all about helping your pets ease into the “new normal.”
The same goes for sounds – get your dogs ( & yourself ) used to common baby sounds by placing a mobile device in the crib to play baby crying, laughing, & cooing. Remember to pair the new sounds with a treat, toy, or praise. Invite friends to bring over their young children to help your pets get used to having an infant, or small children, in the home. It also gives you the opportunity to see how your pet reacts to babies – just be sure to monitor them closely!
Your dog relies on their sense of smell for a lot – this includes picking up the scent of all the new baby things they see. Don’t forget to let them sniff diapers, powders, baby oils, & lotions. Key tip: nothing is as authentic as bringing the blanket & hat home in the car seat. Carry the car seat into the house with you, put it down and let your dog sniff and investigate the new smells of the blanket/hat in the car seat. Then move the blanket/hat to other areas where the baby will be spending time & making noises like the bassinet & crib. There is less chance your dog will be bothered by the change if they already accepted the changes you’ve gradually been making.
Months before the baby arrives, begin varying feeding schedules & exercise times to make your dog more flexible. For example, begin to slowly shorten walk length, walk frequency & move the times you feed them an hour earlier or later. You don’t have to start paying less attention to your dog either, but if your dog follows you like velcro don’t be afraid to start behaving more independently so your dog can develop a little independence, too. Doggie daycare can be an option for dogs who need a place to burn off cooped up energy. Keep in mind the physical demands of pregnancy over the months may have already helped your dog get used to less attention.
Dogs are usually fine with a little more independence. It may be tempting to spend as much time with them as you can before the baby arrives but it’s easier on them if you gradually reduce the doggie doting. Your partner can also help by forming a stronger bond with your dog. Not only does this redistribute the attention a bit, but it also can help establish another person your dog feels comfortable going to for needs like food & walks – making them less reliant on only you.
Don’t feel guilty about shifting your attention – there are still activities you can share once the baby is born! Take the baby & dog for a walk in nice weather. Walking is a bonding experience for dogs & provides exercise, fresh air, & sunshine. Also set aside some individual time for your pets – they will understand you still love them & that they just have to be a little more patient to get that special attention.
It is very important, for your baby, to make sure your pets are seen by your veterinarian – they need to be properly dewormed, up to date on shots, & thoroughly examined to make sure there are no health issues. Pets can carry & spread intestinal parasites without obvious outward signs. If I am your veterinarian, you have heard me talk about leptospirosis, rabies, & other pet infections we need to be concerned about because people can catch them, too. Pets who may have underlying medical conditions can also exhibit behavior that isn’t “their normal.” My goal is to help protect your baby by helping protect your pets, making sure they are as healthy as can be. It’s also the perfect time to address any animal behavior concerns since my focus is to start your baby’s human-animal bond off on the right foot!
It is also important to ask any questions you have about your pets recent behavior & address any concerns about past behavior. Recognizing & acting quickly makes the behavior easier to correct & less stressful for both pet & parent. Your veterinarian can help you with any issues & also connect you to a trainer if recommended. This highlights the importance of practicing basic commands like sit, stay, & leave it (or, drop it). Commands are not only useful for the face-value action you want from your pet, but they can also be used in so many other ways. For example, teaching your dog to sit or “place” on a designated area does the same thing as teaching them not to jump on the crib or into your lap without permission. Kitty Tip: aluminum foil or double-sided tape on the crib & changing table helps train cats not to jump up.
Remember to frequently massage your pet’s feet, ears, & tail. Much like yours, your dog’s sleep schedule may also be interrupted by a newborn & if lack of sleep can make you cranky, we can bet it can make your dog cranky, too! Your tired dog may have a shorter fuse for the exploring hands of babies that like to grab dog’s feet, ears, & tail if they haven’t been desensitized to it beforehand.
You Had The Baby!
Congratulations! … “now what?!” Welcoming your baby home is a special moment. There will be a lot of excitement & possibly a lot of fanfare with a lot of people. This is an opportunity for your dog to meet his or her little sibling but you should do it in a very specific way. Dogs can be territorial but you don’t necessarily need to introduce them outside the home. Don’t let your dog jump on you as you walk through the door – it is helpful if your dog is crate trained. Wait to introduce the baby to the dog when everyone is calm, quiet, & settled to create a less stimulating or stressful experience.
Don’t forget family building experiences your dog can understand. Besides the bonding exercise of going for a stroller walk with your baby & dog, eat your meals together. Since dogs can sense inequity, give your dog a treat or toy when your baby gets something new. All these things help reinforce that there is no need for your dog to develop any jealous feelings.
By this point, you are doing a lot of work with your dog to accept & respect your baby. The same is true that your baby should learn how to accept & respect your dog. Work with your baby to teach the proper way to pet & handle your dog & your dog’s belongings. Doing both helps produce a home filled with love, peace, & serenity!
It’s OK to spend more time on baby & a little less on doggie. If you’ve taken the time to do the things above (or in the checklist below), it’s just an adjustment & most dogs will do just fine. By setting some ground rules for both dogs & babies, you’re on your way to creating another unique human-animal bond between your child & dog. Even though it may take some time to adjust, remember to relax & have faith that everything will work out fine. Now go & create memorable experiences that involve everyone. Enjoy It’s OK to spend more time on baby & a little less on doggie. If you’ve taken the time to do the things above (or in the checklist below), it’s just an adjustment & most dogs will do just fine. By setting some ground rules for both dogs & babies, you’re on your way to creating another unique human-animal bond between your child & dog. Even though it may take some time to adjust, remember to relax & have faith that everything will work out fine. Now go & create memorable experiences that involve everyone. Enjoy all the babies in your life – your new ones, your furry ones, & the growing family you’ve become.
This is a topic I aspired to write about for quite some time. No time like the present when you’re expecting the first of your very own this July 2019!
Thank you for reading my article on how to make family adjustments when a baby is on the way. I hope you found it helpful & informative. Please comment & let me know what you think!
- Familiarize to sights, sounds, smells, & flexible schedules
- Reduce feelings of jealousy by redistributing attention, giving rewards when giving something to baby, sharing activities, & saving some individual time for just you & your pets
- See your veterinarian soon, consult a trainer if recommended, & anticipate making boarding reservations if needed
- Desensitize your dog by frequently massaging their feet, ears, & tail
- Remember to teach your baby how to respect your dog & your dog’s belongings, too
- Never leave your child and pets unsupervised
- Wooten, Sarah. “Preparing for a kiddo… when you have a doggo.” DVM360. 2018 May 16.
- Walters, Erin. “How to Prepare Your Pets for Baby’s Arrival.” The Bump. 2019 April 21.
- Fox, Paul. “This is What Happens When Babies And Dogs Meet For The First Time.” Honest to Paws. 2019 April 26.