And baby makes three (or four or five)
Because Animatch sees so many dogs who arrive on our doorstep because a new baby is on the scene, we feel that this is an area where couples might require some educating. Miranda Wimbush, a former Animatch Volunteer (her husband, Mike Bourque, was also a Volunteer) feels that she can offer a few helpful hints. Dogs and cats can be wonderful companions for babies and toddlers, not to mention creating even more excuses for parents to post photos of their two-legged and four-legged family members.
Prepare Your Dog for Baby
Congratulations, a new baby is on the way! So many things to do to prepare; there’s the baby's room to decorate, doctors’ visits, prenatal classes and all those cute little outfits to buy. But wait! Don't forget about your dog in all the excitement. Things are likely to get quite hectic once the new addition arrives so take the time you have now to prepare. Here are simple steps you can take to prepare before baby's arrival and help your dog acclimate once your baby is home:
Before Baby’s Arrival
Acclimate your dog to the sights, sounds and smells of baby- Create positive associations by exposing him gradually and making sure that you offer lots of tasty treats when introducing him to new things. Your dog is unique and will react stronger to one sense over another, for the biggest impact I suggest focusing on his dominant sense. For dogs that are very attune to noises, play a track of a crying baby at low volume, if your dog has very keen sight at tends to notice changes in his visual environment, set up baby equipment like swings and play mats well in advance. Simply place them out and allow your dog to inspect them at his pace. Finally, if your dog is very scent orientate familiarize him to baby smells such as baby oil or lotions.
Prepare your dog for changes in routine- With the arrival of baby will likely come some unpredictability in routine so start now varying his feeding and walking times slightly. Move his sleeping spots and practice baby gating him out of rooms. If you plan on using a crate or tether practice adding that in as well. Make sure you create positive associations with being confined by giving your dog a stuffed Kong or chew toy whenever you use these safety tools.
Brush up on your dog's obedience skills- Now is a great time to sign up for a positive reinforce the based obedience class, or work on your dog's skills at home with the help of a clicker training book. The most essential skills your dog will need most are: good loose leash walking skills, a solid down and place command, a go command so you can direct your dog out of a room, as well as leave it for all those baby toys that will soon be lying around. If you can, practice walking with your dog while you have a baby carrier on or are pushing a stroller, and practicing sending your dog to his bed while you pretend to change a diaper is a useful to have under your belt as well. If your dog tends to bark or paw at you for attention start to reduce that behaviour by making it ineffective- ignore it completely, and make sure you give your dog attention when he is being calm.
Make pet care plans- Book a pet sitter or kennel for when you are in the hospital, and if you think you will need additional help meeting your dog's exercise needs hire a dog walker. Take care of your dog’s upcoming vet appointments and stock up on medication, treats, and food. Make a list of your dog friends you can call in a pinch to help you care for your dog in case of emergency. Preparing in advance is going to reduce your stress level and make the transition into parenthood so much smoother.
After Baby Comes Home
Keep introductions low key and when you are ready- You may be tired coming home from the hospital and not ready for introductions right away. That is completely fine. Wait until you are ready, even if that means delaying it a few days. When you arrive home your dog will be excited to see you, so go in and greet him calmly. Then when you are ready to introduce dog and baby, hold baby in your arms and allow your dog to sniff baby's feet. The introductions should be relaxed and brief.
Never ever leave baby unsupervised with your dog- No matter how well behaved or cute your dog is he is still a dog. For safety's sake keep your dog away from your baby unless you are in the room and actively supervising. Baby gates, crates and tethers-- or closed doors are all excellent ways of creating separation.
Some dogs may be overstimulated by swings or rockers- it's best to have your dog out of the room or place the baby equipment up out of reach
If your dog misbehaves try and redirect him by asking him to perform a behaviour he knows, rather than telling him no repeatedly. As well, make sure you give your dog some calm attention when you are holding the baby so that he builds positive associations and starts to form a bond.
Make sure your dog has a safe place to go when he is feeling overwhelmed such as a crate or room that is off limits for the baby. When your baby gets older teach him to leave the dog alone when he goes to these areas. As well brush up on your body language skills so that you can spot stress signals in your dog and separate them before a problem occurs.
With proper planning and preparation most dogs will be curious but accepting of the new arrival. The joy you will feel watching your baby grow up with his furry friends will make it all worthwhile!
There are articles and resources for expectant parents and parents of babies and toddlers at http://www.FamilyPaws.com home ,to both Dogs & Storks and Dog & Baby Connection. Family Paws also runs a Dog and Baby Support hotline at 1-877-247-3407.