Expecting a baby? How to prepare your dog for the new arrival

I’m sure you all know by now that I only have a few weeks left before there is a new addition to the household. With this in mind I thought I would base this months blog on preparing your dog for this big change. Although we already have a toddler running around I’m sure Vinnie has forgotten what it is like to have a newborn here…….I’m pretty sure I have!

I have to admit then when I was pregnant with George I totally underestimated the effect it would have on Vinnie even though I thought I had done lots of desensitisation with him. I have certainly learned some lessons which is why I’m determined to get it right this time, especially now Vinnie is even older and just wants a quiet life.

The biggest thing I thought I had done enough work with was the sound of a baby crying but the sounds I played weren’t that of a newborn baby. Anyone that has had children will know the sound of a newborn is different to the sound of any other cry. So this time I have played the sound of a newborn and gradually turned the volume up as Vinnie ignores it. I have also stroked him and spoken to him while it is playing so he has a good association with the sound. By clicking on the button below you will be directed to the YouTube clip I have been using.

Other things you can do to prepare your dog include practising walking with the pram and/or sling. This will get your dog used to the movement and means you can train them to walk nicely if they don’t already.

Feeding is also something to think about. However you choose to feed will create a new smell for your dog. Although you may not be able to replicate that until baby is born you can get a doll and hold it as if you were feeding. Atleast your dog will get used to the sight of a baby being fed, and if you play the crying baby noise too it will be another thing to help.

Moses baskets, play mats and toys will be a new thing too. Get these out before baby arrives so your dog can investigate. Play boundary games so your dog doesn’t think the play mat is a new bed. Clicking on the following link will take you to a YouTube clip on how to teach your dog the bed cue https://youtu.be/t07AkD3riqQ

Teaching a really good ‘leave it’ and ‘drop it’ will come in handy with toys, especially if you have a puppy!

Teaching Vinnie ‘leave it’.

If baby doesn’t come straight home from hospital it is worth letting your dog sniff a babygrow or vest that baby has slept in. This will get your dog used to the new smell and it won’t be so keen to investigate when baby does come home. When your baby does come home let your dog have a sniff of a used nappy, but make sure they don’t try to eat it as it can be a big choking hazard (and will be fairly gross!).

If you do have a baby due soon things are going to be very different due to Covid but if the roadmap keeps easing you will inevitably have visitors. This can be a huge shock to your dog as they will be so used to having the home and garden to themselves. Make sure your dog has its own space to go to, whether that is a bed, crate or different room. It’s really important that if things get too much they can go and relax away from all of the hustle and bustle.

Sleep and separation anxiety can also become an issue. Sleep deprivation is something we underestimate and we also forget it can also have an impact on our dogs. Depending on your situation it is highly likely you will be spending more time at home which means your dog may not be getting the neccassary rest it needs and they will get used to you being there (if they aren’t already due to lockdown!). If you feel up to it still try and go out for a short time so your dog can recharge it’s batteries and to help prevent any attachment that can lead to separation anxiety. It will also help you mentally to get out and get some fresh air!

It’s really important to remember never to leave your dog and baby alone, even if you’re just nipping to the toilet. You could have the worlds best behaved dog but babies can be unpredictable. They have a startle reflex which could frighten your dog meaning they react in a way they never normally would. Either take your baby or your dog with you but don’t take the risk of leaving them together.

Knowing how to read your dog’s body language is really important. Subtle signs such as lip licking, turning away and yawning can all be signs your dog is stressed. As always these things have to be seen in context e.g your dog may be yawning because it is tired and not because it is stressed. Being aware of these things means you will be able manage the situation before you end up with an anxious or reactive dog.

The picture below shows the body language signals your dog may go through and some of them are really subtle. However, picking up on them will prevent the dog reaching the top of the list. For more information on how to read your dog get intouch about the accredited Canine Body Language course I teach.

Having a child and a dog in the home can be such an amazing thing. The bond between Vinnie and George melts my heart so I’m hoping the same happens with our new arrival. The most important thing is to enjoy the pregnancy, don’t stress too much and be sensible with your dog when baby arrives.

Scientific studies have even shown children have less chance of developing asthma and they have a better immune system if they live in a home with a cat or dog.

My last few weeks before baby arrives will be spent having quality time with Vinnie……..and trying to get some sleep!

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