For expecting parents, coming up with a good plan for the nursery, baby essentials and hospital stay are usually all on the to-do list. Yet, what sometimes doesn't make the list is preparing the dog for a new addition to the family.
As routines and the environment for your dog are bound to change, good preparation can go a long way in creating a peaceful and safe home.
Shauna Romero, CPT-KA, behavior and training supervisor at the San Diego Humane Society and licensed presenter of the Dogs and Storks class, presented by Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns, answers some questions about prepping your dog for a new baby in the house.
Why is it so important to prepare your dog ahead of a baby's arrival to the home?
Dogs thrive on routine, so if you get them ready ahead of time by slowly introducing them to a different one, they won't feel so neglected when the baby comes and they'll be familiar with the new dynamic. Education is key to integration.
How far ahead should you start preparing your dog?
As soon as possible. Think ahead of all the things you allow your dog to do now and reflect on whether you will want that same behavior when the baby is in the home. Ask yourselves what rules you will want them to abide by and start introducing them prior to the baby arriving.
What are some practical tips that you can give expecting parents about their dog?
- Some dogs can be environmentally cautious, so it's a good idea to bring out the baby toys, chairs, mobiles and bouncers before the baby arrives so they can acclimate themselves to having them around prior to the baby using them.
- If you plan on taking your baby on your daily walks with you and your dog, start incorporating a stroller on your walks prior to the baby arriving. This gives you and your dog a chance to figure out loose leash walking with a stroller now.
- If your dog is sensitive to sounds, start to play ones that your dog may encounter once a baby arrives. You can pair these sounds with treats to start creating positive associations with new noises.
- Take a class to learn how to read your dog's body language. If you know how to recognize their sensitivities and how they are feeling, you can then identify when an intervention is needed.
If no prep work is done with a dog, what can expecting parents do when the baby is brought into the home?
Don't make the baby a big focus by saying things like, "Look at your sister/brother," or forcing interactions between the baby and your dog. Instead, you want to act as if it's the norm having the baby in the house.
Also, remember to never leave your dog alone and unsupervised with your baby even just for a second. Dogs are dogs; they are not familiar with your new baby and must be supervised by an attentive adult at all times.
To learn more about preparing your dog for a new baby in the home, participate in a Dogs and Storks class hosted by Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns. Register online or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277).