It can be the most exciting time of your life, but also the most nerve wracking. And, if you have a dog, sometimes the worry can (almost) outweigh the excitement! Parents-to-be often worry how their dog will act around the baby when it arrives. Will their dog be friendly? Scared? Aggressive? How will their dog act when the baby is crying, or when the baby starts crawling or walking?
The good news is, owners can stack the deck in their favor by engaging the services of a trainer early on in their pregnancy to help them train and prepare their dog for baby. Read on for the top 5 things you can do to help set up your dog for success!
1: Basic Obedience
Teaching your dog to reliably respond to basic cues can reduce stress, anxiety, and confusion for your dog because it enables you to tell your dog exactly what he should be doing in this new set of circumstances. While your dog may know these commands already, making sure that he is able to respond to them reliably and with a variety of distractions is key, so don’t limit your practice sessions to your boring apartment.
Now is also the time to tackle those pesky behaviors that dogs love to do but drive us nuts. Teach your dog to remain calm when guests arrive. Work on polite on leash behaviors. Refine manners – address begging, demanding behaviors like barking and pawing, stealing clothing or personal belongings, and jumping.
2: Introduce Your Dog to Your Baby’s Things
There are going to be enough new experiences in your pup’s life when you bring home baby - your baby’s accessories don’t need to be one of them! Set up your nursery in advance, and decide whether the room will be off limits to your dog, or if you’ll allow your dog access. Introduce your dog to the swing, bouncy chair, and stroller, and teach your dog to remain calm around them. Practice leave it around tempting things like baby bottles, diapers, baby toys, and clothes.
3: Practice Basic Commands with a Fake Baby
If you’re uncertain how your dog will react around a baby or a toddler, you can bring your dog to a nearby playground (but don’t go in!). Walk your dog by and around the playground while monitoring his body language. Does he seem uninterested, or does he seem overly interested? Make sure that you’re able to accurately read your dog’s body language so that you can get a good handle on your dog’s level of comfort. If your dog seems overly excited or nervous, work with your SSDT trainer to address this.
For practice in your apartment, we also highly suggest you purchase a realistic baby doll to accustom your dog to the presence of a baby. Practice all the basic obedience commands while carrying your fake baby, and teach your dog to settle while you “soothe” fake baby. You can pair the fake baby with a crying soundtrack to make it more realistic!
4: Change Your Routine Now
Once the baby arrives, anticipate that you’ll be spending less time with your dog than he is accustomed to as you settle into your new routine. Your dog can become frustrated by a sudden decrease in attention, and if that decrease coincides with the arrival of your baby, your dog may develop a negative association to your baby. Start reducing the amount of attention your dog receives now by gradual increments and consider hiring a dog walker 2-4 weeks prior to your due date to make that transition as smooth as possible.
5: Hire a Trainer
If your dog shows any signs of fear, over excitability, or aggression at any point during preparation for your baby, make sure to set up a session with your SSDT trainer immediately. Our positive reinforcement methods can help you refine your dog’s basic cues and teach you new ones like settle, place, back up, and help you manage and reduce your dog’s fear/aggression/excitability