When you’re expecting it’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of buying tiny colorful clothes and choosing paint and decor for your nursery, but it’s important to plan for how your pet is going to react to your new addition. You’ll want your dog and baby to get along and – ideally – be best friends, and preparing your pup before their new sibling comes home can go a long way to helping them form a bond before the baby is even born.
1. Make a Plan
Most expectant mothers of humans have a birthing plan, one that includes what needs to be packed, what music to put on the ipod, and an array of outfits to put the baby in before she comes home. Doggy moms need to draw up another birthing plan, one that includes the four legged mass of fur that doesn’t understand what the changes in the household mean. This special plan needs to include training (what needs to be worked on, when to work on it, who needs to work with the dog), special smelling times to get used to the scents associated with the new baby and decide on specifics like will the dog be allowed in the nursery? Will the dog be allowed to kiss the baby? Although these decisions may seem trivial compared to natural birth vs. cesarean section, they are still as important and need to be regarded as such.
2. Manners Matter
If there are obedience issues it is best to fix them before the baby arrives. Basic commands such as sit, stay and leave it will be essential. Begin as soon as you can to establish the foundations for these commands. Have the dog sit before letting him out and before meals. Practice leave it often (This is the one dogs tend to forget if not used on a regular basis).
3. Quirky Behavior
Some dogs have “cute little quirks” that an owner assumes are harmless, until a baby is in the picture. One of them is jumping up on people as a way to greet them. This is not a good trait to encourage. If a new parent is holding the baby, a dog may try to jump up to see the wee one as well, which may lead to scratches and injury. Once a baby starts tottering, a jumping dog will get excited and topple the little one.
Barking is another issue that needs to be altered. All dogs bark, but excessive barking can be a nuisance and cause unnecessary chaos in the household. Contact a certified trainer to curb a Barky McBarkBark, a seasoned jumper or a chronic chewer of toys.
4. Sniff and Tell
Allow the dog to sniff what will be used on the baby to get used to the new scents. If the dog will be allowed in the nursery, set up a sleeping area for them and toss treats into their bed when they aren’t looking. This will bring about positive associations with the new bed and all the other changes going on in the household. Open a couple of the baby toys at a time and lay them on the floor for the dog to sniff. If the dog tries to take one, give the command to drop it (or leave it… or no, whatever command the dog will respond best to) and offer one of their toys, to teach them what is appropriate to chew on and what is not.
5. Practice Makes Perfect
While getting ready for the new arrival, practice with a doll. Allow the dog to watch normal everyday interaction (Changing diapers, feeding, rocking etc.) If there are any behavioral concerns such as barking, biting or jumping this is a good way to nip them in the bud before the birth.
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