Bringing a new baby into your home is a joyous experience, but it can be confusing for your pup, especially if he or she is an “only child.”
A new baby not only shakes up your routine, it also shakes up your pup. Most people already know that balancing time with their dog and their new baby won’t be easy, but there are a lot of other factors to consider.
Your dog will likely need to learn new boundaries and get used to the new noises and smells that come with a tiny baby. Plus, babies can be pretty stressful for humans and your dog will pick up on that. These changes might stress them out, startle them or scare them.
Sounds like a lot of work, right? We consulted with dog trainer Lauren Novack of Lauren’s Leash to give us some pro tips on bringing home a hooman sibling for your dog.
Ideally, the work starts the moment you bring your fuzzbutt home. It’s important to lay the groundwork with “sit,” “stay,” “leave it” and other basic training skills. Lauren adds that teaching your dog to “settle” in one spot is helpful, especially for dogs who are easily excited.
Another great pro tip is to teach your dog to “back up.” Lauren recommends using “beep, beep” as a cue.
Once you start trying to conceive, it’s time to work on baby specific prep work. After your newborn arrives, it will be difficult enough to find the time and energy to play with and walk your dog. You certainly won’t have time to work on training your pup. It’s better to do all of that work pre-baby.
Here are a few must-dos to help prepare your pup for the arrival of a human sibling:
1. Play sounds of crying babies during mealtime. Start with the volume down low, so that it’s almost inaudible. If your pup doesn’t react to the noise, raise the volume one level each meal. If there are still no issues, play the crying noises at unpredictable times, and be ready to throw your pup a few treats for tolerating the sound.. By the time your baby comes, your dog should have no issue with loud cries.
2. Make changes to your apartment as soon as possible. A change in environment can be stressful for dogs. The sooner the baby stuff is in the apartment, the more time your pooch has to adjust to the change before the baby comes along.
Pup parent Camie Harlson Orth says this method helped her two dogs acclimate to their new hooman sister:
“When I was pregnant, I set up all things baby (crib, swing, stroller, etc) months before my daughter arrived. My two pups had time to get used to the things before they had to get used to the baby.”
3. Desensitize your pup to rough handling. Tiny hoomans are uber explorers. They use their hands and sometimes their entire body to figure things out. This is adorable, but it’s not always pawsome for your pup. Babies and toddlers often hit or roughly grab things, including animals. It’s usually not aggressive on their part, it’s just that they’re new to the world and don’t understand that they need to be gentle.
You should get your pup used to rough handling. Your dog should never have to endure any inappropriate handling by your child, but in case of a management failure this will help decrease the chance that your pup might bite if your child grabs your dog too hard or too suddenly. Try working on this five times a day for a few minutes at a time. It’s a good idea to do this while your pup is playing or getting munchies, so that he’ll associate these touchy-feelies with positive things.
4. Create a designated dog-only safe space to retreat to in case he is overwhelmed. This can be a cozy crate, gated area or a room where the baby is not allowed. Make sure this is a space your dog loves and feels safe. Stock the space with your pup’s food, water, favorite toys, bully sticks or puzzle games. A fun idea is to hide treats in the room to give your dog a fun activity to do.
5. Teaching your dog to relax on a mat is a must. No matter where you put the mat, your pup should be able to lie quietly. This gives her the opportunity to be near you and the baby while you nurse or otherwise need your dog to be calm. Your pup can’t simultaneously relax on a mat and jump on you for attention while you’re breastfeeding.
6. Practice walks with the stroller. If your pup can master the stroller walk, there’s a better chance that he’ll still get his much needed exercise and attention from you.
7. Make sure you understand canine body language. Most doggy owners think that they understand what their dog is saying to them, but sometimes they’re wrong. If you make a mistake reading your dog’s behavior and your baby is the cause of the pup’s stress, someone could get hurt. In almost all cases, dog bites are predictable and preventable. Stress comes first, the bite comes second, so you need to be able to identify your pup’s stress indicators.
It’s impawtant to remember that baby and pup should NEVER be left alone together unsupervised. And as stated above, babies should never be allowed to grab a dog, put their face close to the dogs face, hug a dog or disturb a sleeping dog.
To give you even more advice on prepping your pup for a baby, Lauren says these resources are super helpful:
Lauren advises that these are for parents who don’t want to spend money on a dog training consultation. She particularly likes, “Pregnancy, Pups, and Preparation” and “Welcome Home – Introducing New Baby and Dog Class.” Both webinars are $9.95 each.
Family Paws, the site with the above webinars,is a great general resource for expecting parents and those who already have young children.
Good luck with your baby prep, humans!