History has shown that dogs and children go hand in hand, so to speak. We find dogs are good, confident, protectors & playmates and even teachers when it comes to chores and responsibility. As parents, we must remember the pets we love are in fact dogs and not human. Dogs do not know right from wrong, they are predators (as you see them attack a squeaky toy) and they are scavengers making them very investigative.
The first thing that should be addressed when you find out you are expecting is to assess your dog’s behaviour now. What nuisance behaviours have you been tolerating that may not be acceptable when the baby is born? Some examples of this are; barking, jumping up, pulling on the leash when walking, or attention seeking. It is best to address these once-tolerable behaviours before the baby comes home and you find you are now too tired, less patient and frustrated with your pet. These behaviours will easily threaten the strong Human – Animal bond you both value.
Step 2 – It is a good idea to set up the baby equipment in the house ahead of time. For example, the crib, baby swing and bouncy chair. If you need to move the dog’s bed for this, now is the time before the baby comes home. This will allow your pet to adjust to the reduced amount of space in the home and to the new expectations of where he is allowed to go or areas he is not allowed entrance to.
Step 3 – A Baby Handling Game can be practised. You wrap a 10 lb bag of potatoes in a blanket and carry it around the house. This may feel really weird but it will benefit both you and your dog. This process will help your body adapt to the new posture and new muscles you will be using but for your dog, there are many benefits. You will now be directing your pet with new hand gestures that he/she will need to become accustomed to. You can also give your dog treats or rewards when you are holding the “package” so they will recognize that situation as a good thing.
Combine steps 2 & 3 by placing the pretend baby in the baby swing and start it moving. This motion is new to your dog and he will be curious. Let him sniff and investigate now while it is not your real baby in it. Reward good calm behaviour. Any object that moves and makes noise should be a common sound or motion to your pet before the baby comes home.
It is a good idea to write all of your favourite things to do with your dog pre-baby and post them in the home. You are going from your dog having ALL of the attention too much less in a short period of time. If you can use that list to remind you of things you used to enjoy pre-baby then you can use these activities as a sort of stress reliever when you need it. Win-Win for both your mental health and the dog.
Lastly, you need to prepare for the unexpected. Keep special toys ready such as Kongs stuffed and ready in the freezer to distract a playful dog who is missing/wanting your attention when you are too busy. Find someone in your neighbourhood who could take your pet for a walk daily and arrange this in advance. Talk to family members, a kennel or dog sitter in case you just need a break from the added stress of a lonesome pet.
The “Human – Animal” bond between you and your pet is very strong now and preparing early will help to keep it that way. Your dog is your most loyal friend and you owe it to them and your family to do your best to keep it that way.
* Watch next month for Part 2- Bringing Your New Baby Home to Meet Your Dog.
Written by Darlene Cannon, RVT