Preparing Buddy for a New Baby
If your dog has long been considered the “baby” of your family, he might not handle it well when a new human baby joins your pack. Not only will Buddy receive less attention, but he’ll also have to become accustom to new smells, sounds and sights that can all leave him feeling stressed and insecure. Changes in his routine, the actions and behaviors of his humans, and the presence of a new, loud, odd looking hairless human can throw off even an otherwise well-mannered dog. To alleviate the stress of a sudden transition, take time during the nine months of pregnancy preparing Buddy for the new family addition. Create a baby-friendly routine for him that will result in minimal changes in his life once baby arrives. It is also a good idea to familiarize him with sights and sounds of babies to help him remain at ease once the real thing comes into his home. Something as simple as YouTube videos of babies crying may help, or a visit to a friend’s home who has a baby – just be sure to keep Buddy well secured for the safety of the baby. Don’t try to do too much at once – remember, you have nine months to prepare him.
Chances are, you’ve already provide Buddy with some basic training skills and he identifies you as the pack leader. This is necessary in order for him to respect your authority, an essential need when there’s a baby involved. If you recognize you are not the leader of the pack – i.e. Buddy believes he rules the roost – pre-baby obedience training is highly recommended. Believe it or not, a dog feels most secure when he knows the pecking order of his pack, even if he is not the leader.
During your nine month prep session, teach your dog limits. A happy and submissive dog will naturally show respect for any human – even an infant – so there are a few rules that are wise to establish:
SET LIMITS. Set an invisible boundary for Buddy, making the baby’s nursery off-limits by warning him with a low and stern “NO” when he attempts to enter the room. Later, allow him to enter when supervised, giving him the opportunity to sniff the area. Ensure he leaves the room when you tell him to do so. This tells Buddy you have control over the room and he needs to respect your control. Repeat the process regularly, allowing him to sniff new things as they are added, such as the crib, changing table, blankets, clothes, etc. – just ensure he does not jump on, chew on, lick or bite anything. Some dogs fear things that move, so be sure to push the baby’s stroller around in front of him to test his reaction. Reward his calm behavior with treats and affection to form positive associations with the contents of the nursery.
CREATE A BABY-FRIENDLY ROUTINE. Perhaps Buddy is accustom to playing with his human at least three times per day and knows if he sits in front of the door, he will be taken for a walk outside. This routine will likely be disturbed once baby arrives as new parents are naturally occupied with their baby much of the time. But, as a pet parent, the duties of pack leader need to be fulfilled as well. Soon-to-be parents should create a new routine that will satisfy the needs of the baby and Buddy, and stick with the routine once the new baby comes home.
EXERCISE. If you have a fenced-in yard, it will be tempting once the baby arrives to simply put Buddy in the yard to do his business rather than take him for a walk. Big mistake! A dog needs exercise as much as he needs food and water. Keeping up a routine of walking Buddy every day once the baby arrives may seem difficult, but here are a few ideas that may make it doable:
- Teach Buddy to walk on a treadmill – yes, it can be done!
- If Buddy’s usual walk time needs to be shortened, consider a doggy backpack (yes, there is such a thing!). A backpack loaded with 10 to 12 percent of your dog’s weight creates a challenge your dog will love, and it will tire him out in just a fraction of the usual time.
- If Buddy is small or older, a walk beside the stroller with baby in tow may work just fine. Take a few practice runs, teaching him to walk calmly beside an empty stroller, before baby comes home.
Preparing Buddy for the addition of a baby to his pack is of the utmost importance. A well-behaved family dog is a definite asset to a child’s life, providing unconditional love, companionship and protection. However, a dog that is not prepared may be unhappy and a potential danger to baby. Do all you can to make the transition as stress-free and smooth as possible.