You’re expecting a baby and this is an exciting time. But maybe you’re also a little worried about your first baby, your dog, and how he might react to your new human baby. As a licensed Family Paws Parent Educator and a certified behavior consultant and trainer whose speciality is fear and aggression, I work with a lot of families with dogs and kids. And experience tells me, it’s always better to be proactive than reactive, so with that in mind, if you’re expecting, now is the perfect time to schedule a one on one pre-baby prep session to help prepare your dog (and you!) for the big changes ahead once the baby arrives.
There’s a lot of well-meaning, but misguided information out there on best practices for introducing dogs and babies. My free guide, 10 Dos and Don’ts When Introducing Your Dog to Your New Baby is a great start to give you some guidance. Today I’m also covering some ways to help your dog when you’re expecting. This was released at the end of my multi-part blog series, Bringing Home Baby. Check it out if you missed it!
1. Practice supervised separation before the baby arrives where your dog is separated with a gate or in another room while you are home and moving around. This will be helpful once baby arrives and as baby grows into toddlerhood. (Toddlers are often more scary for dogs than infants.). If you have multiple dogs, get them used to being separated from one another, in the event they need to be apart for walks, feeding, enrichment, exercise or management.
2. Identify and decrease attention-seeking behaviors such as whining, pawing, barking or jumping.
3. Learn your dog’s body language, including subtle signals when they’re stressed, anxious or fearful.
4. Begin a baby-friendly schedule for feeding, walks, exercise and other activities. Once the baby arrives, your dog’s schedule likely won’t be as regular as it is, and exercise may not be as frequent, so adjust early to get your dog learns to be flexible.
5. Practice obedience skills on verbal cues with a mock baby and include early introductions to baby equipment.
Of course this isn’t a comprehensive list and isn’t all you need to do to help your dog prepare, but it’s a good start. My private one-on-one 2-hour video session includes a complete assessment, areas to focus on and personalized training plan to help prepare your dog for baby, homework, enrichment recommendations and an assortment of dog/baby handouts and resources as well as an opportunity for you to ask any questions or discuss any concerns you might have.