You’re expecting a new baby – or your little one has already arrived – and your dog is no longer the only “baby” of the house.
For many people, this unfortunately means rehoming the dog or having it live outside on a chain, à la Lady and The Tramp. You may even be coming close to this point yourself.
No matter how much you love your dog, a new baby means that your dog will have to learn to adjust to less one-on-one time with you.
However, balancing a dog and a new baby really can be done. You will get through this!
Dogs can sense changes in a pregnant woman’s scent, and may act more affectionate or protective of their expecting mom – but they won’t truly know what to expect from their new “sibling.”
You can prepare your dog for a newborn’s screeching cry by training them to be calm. Some new parents play YouTube videos of babies crying at a low volume while the dog is relaxing, enjoying a chew, or during training sessions. By gradually raising the volume, you can help your dog get used to the sound. Your dog can learn to relax, even sleep through the baby’s cries.
Before the baby arrives, begin training your dog to stay out of the nursery no matter what.
The nursery should be the one room that your dog cannot enter. You can use a baby gate to keep the dog out, but that may not be necessary if you discourage the dog from making a habit of being in the baby’s room.
When the dog enters the room, calmly say, “out,” and lead the dog out the door. Allow your dog to calmly sit in the doorway. From there, the dog can learn to enjoy your company and keep watch over you and the baby while respecting the boundary.
When you have a new baby, it becomes much more difficult to simply walk across your home. Now that you’re carrying a screaming infant, an armful of bottles, diapers or laundry, your dog might suddenly always be “in the way.” This will be especially true if your dog is used to you giving them lots of attention; they may not understand why you’re not stopping to give them pats every time you walk past.
You can teach your dog to politely walk by your side instead of in front of you. When your hands are free, reward your dog with attention only when they’re next to you.
With a new baby in the house, you’ll find a solid “go to your crate” or “go to your bed” command very helpful. At first, you will need to encourage your dog to go to their designated spot and reward them with lots of attention and treats when they put themselves to bed. Gradually increase the distance and distractions as you use the command. If you practice enough, your dog can learn to “go to bed” even if the delivery man is ringing the doorbell, even if “bed” is on the second floor.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. A dog walker, pet sitter, or even a friend can help you make sure your dog gets enough attention. If your dog has behavioral issues, a professional dog trainer or behaviorist can help.
Dogs need both mental and physical stimulation to stay healthy, happy, and out of trouble.
You can also use puzzle games made for dogs, or create your own challenges to keep your dog’s mind busy. It’s fun to ditch the food bowl and scatter your dog’s kibble in the grass or in a folded up towel – your dog will love sniffing out each bite.
It’ll be a while before your kid is running around with the dog, tiring each other out. In the meantime, you can go on dog walks with a stroller or baby sling.
With a new baby in tow, it may be a lot of hard work to keep your dog happy and well-behaved, but in time, it’ll be worth it. Hang in there – you have best friends in the making!
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