You’ve found out you’re pregnant, congratulations! Now all the celebrations have died down, and your planning for the delivery in nine months, don’t forget the dog.
Oh no! Not a baby!
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Dogs and babies have a lot of bad media attention, with unfortunate attacks and bad situations.
Putting in some work in before the baby arrives can save you the worry, and heart ache of possibly re-homing your dog.
Here are some steps towards helping your dog adjust to all the changes to come:
Sound proofing your dog!
This isn’t getting them to be silent, but instead getting them used to all the sounds a baby will make. The fancy term is Desensitisation, and its essentially teaching your dog not to react to baby sounds, allowing them to be calm round the new arrival.
You can get Apps (https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/sound-proof-puppy-training/id700513321?mt=8) or CDs to help with this, but you can use sound clips online (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hS08XsI6Vg) . Play babies screaming, crying, gurgling, toy sounds, laughing, making any noise while the dog is eating, playing, while feeding treats, training and sleeping.
To start off with they will be interested in the sound, but over time they will learn its part of background life, nothing to be worried about. Some dogs get used to this quickly, others take time, which is why it is important to start early.
Continuing right up to when the baby is born.
Get the baby gear early
Get the gear up ready in the house. Have it all over the place so the dog can get used to it, and just ignore it. Were trying to introduce things early in order for it to be normal, when the new baby arrives, so the dog has less change all at once. This gear includes the pram. Your going to want to be able to walk the dog next to the pram, so teaching it before the baby comes is a great idea. Get it out and set up, introduce it in stages.
1. Have it set up in the house, let them learn to ignore it.
2. Go for a normal long walk, when you come home go straight out with the pram. One of your walking the dog, the other pushing the pram. Walk around the block, and then come home as normal.
3. Do the last stage until the dog ignores the pram, then take the pram out with the dog along side. Walk as normal, and don’t make a fuss about the change. This is also a good time to either teach, or reinforce the “Heel” command, so they walk nicely not drag.
4. Get them used to you fussing with the pram, and play those baby sounds in it as well. They then learn to ignore the screaming baby in real life.
Always watch your dog while walking, don’t run over their feet and make sure their not going to jump in the pram.
Baby toys are of great temptation for dogs, as before the arrival the rule was if it’s on the floor or your interacting with it, chances are the dog is going to get it.
So teaching the leave it, and swap is great to introduce now if they don’t already know it.
1. Get some tasty treats and a toy they like, let them pick up someone of there’s and play with it.
2.Offer them the treat or other toy, as soon as they let go give them what’s been offered with the word “Leave it”, with a cheery attitude.
3. Keep practising this, until they drop it on the command.
You’re not the chase them to steal it off them, yanking it out of their mouth or removing it. That teaches them to keep things. If they do run off, ignore them pick up something else or just leave the room. If they come to find you having dropped the toy, or bring it to you reward them and take it off them.
Its a tricky one to learn, but much needed for when the baby toys arrive.
Start carrying round a fake baby, carry it from room to room, place it in the new baby gear. Basically treat it as a real baby, so the dog gets used to you having your attention on something else. Add in the baby sounds with a phone tucked into the babies clothes or cloth.
The dog might try to jump up to see what you have, instead of pushing them down with a hand. Lift a knee up to push the dog off balance, it means you have both hands on the baby, and the dog stops. Make sure you reward the dog for sitting quietly, instead of jumping.
Sit on the sofa with the baby, again we’re teaching the dog to leave you alone when you have the baby, so push them away if their too interested, or best to teach them to settle else where is to give them a good chew toy on their bed so they settle while your with the baby.
Teaching the “Move Back” command is great to introduce when you introduce the fake baby.
1.Start off with some treats in hand, get your dog in front of you and show them what you have.
2. Push a treat towards their chest, just under their nose. They’ll start to move back in order to get that treat. As they take a strap back give them the treat.
3.Once they’ve done it a few times, they will start to shuffle back on their own. So start adding in the command “Move Back” (Or any command you want).
4. Once they start to get it more, then you can stop putting the treat to their chest and instead flick your hand in the direction combined with the command, and they should move back.
5. Well done you’ve taught your dog to move backwards, keep practising in order for them understand it. To progress it start waiting longer or move further back before you reward them.
This command is great for when your sitting with the baby, its being changed on the floor or playing on a mat. It gives you space, and teaches your dog that if it keeps out of the way good things happen, instead of being shouted at.
Your going to have busy moments, where unfortunately the dog will be in the way. So teach your dog to be happy settled in a crate or shut off room, while your still in the house so they can learn to settle when your busy, or when you have guests about. Teach your dog to enjoy their time alone by giving them boredom busting toys filled with treats, or long lasting chews.
Good products are Kong Chews and Wobblers, Antler Bars, Pizzle Sticks, Dried Tripe, Filled Hooves, basically anything that your dog can chew on and spend time eating.
They won’t like it to start but coupling it with complementary therapies (Such as Pet Remedy, Adaptil and Rescue Remedy), and doing it for 10mins a day to start, will lead up to your dog settling down when your out of the room. Building up the time over the days.
Routine goes out of the window with the arrival of the little one, so get your dog used to the change gradually. Start off feeding at different times, sometimes early or late. Other times in two meals instead of one, change it up.
Walking needs to be more random, different times and locations, even different people. Once the baby is here you might not have the time, or energy to walk the dog so start enlisting friends and family. The dog doesn’t miss out, and you get chance to rest.
Look into a dog walker, they really help not only for walking but they mean your dog can have fun with other friendly dogs.
Look into local kennels, while they might not be everyone’s cup of tea they are a safe, secure and knowledgeable place for your dog to go in an emergency and stay for a period of time should it be needed. Go see local kennels, talk to the owners and see dogs staying there. Take your dog there on a trial evening, see how they react to give you peace of mind.
Training can produce great results, but looking into complementary therapies for calming and de-stressing aids can really help make the transition easier for your dog. Especially for helping during the most stressful times, but are great to be used from the very start.
Pet Remedy is a Valerian based spray that stops dogs felling stressed. It’s great for spraying on bedding, or a collar, as well as anything that worries your dog such as the pram or cot. They also do a diffuser so you don’t have to remember to spray. It really helps stressful dogs settle, or normally calm dogs to stop them ever getting stressed out by all the change.
Adaptil is a synthetic version of the pheromone a mother dog produces when she has a litter of puppies, its used to calm both puppies and mum. Its great for dogs of all ages, to help them relax and settle with any changes in the home. It comes in either a collar or diffuser form, making it easy to help your dog.
Rescue Remedy is a Bach Herbal remedy designed to aid in periods of anxiety and worry, its easy to add to food or water. Can be used any time, and is great to pop on a treat and feed to the dog for unexpected visitors or upsetting noises.
Babies coming, make sure you have someone set up to walk and sort your dog once the big day arrives. Possibly have a few people on standby, or a kennels ready to take them on so you know their well looked after while your in labour.
Introducing your dog to the baby can be a scary moment, but the best thing is to remain calm. Greet your very excited dog without the baby first, let them get the sniffing and wiggles out of the way. Settle down with the baby calmly, then bring the dog in on a lead. Let them sniff and look at the baby, once done get them to settle down with a chew or go out on a walk. Be calm and settled, you’ve been training months for this and it will go to plan.
Once the baby has arrived, don’t be tempted to let someone else walk your dog all the time, or shut them out with a chew. They are part of the family, and need your time as well. So make time for them, get them out with the pram on a walk or ask someone to watch your baby for an hour. You need the one on one time, as much as they do.
You’ve got a 9 month window to do this training, but should you feel your dog is going to be left out, or cause concern for the baby then think hard about re-homing them.
Do this re-homing before the baby comes, not the week after you’ve had the baby and you suddenly realise its going to be hard work. No one is going to judge you on making the best decision for your dog, but re-homing them after the baby has come confuses them more and can lead to behaviour issues in the new home. Deciding early to re-home gives you time to find the perfect home, contact local and breed rescues, dog trainers and friends to see about a home.
Don’t just settle, find the best. you want to work hard to help yourself and your dog get used to the new arrival, then contact a dog behaviourist or trainer. Get in an expert to help, whether that is me or any other trainer. It can make the training easier, and help with the transition.
Most of all enjoy the next chapter of your life, your dogs life and the beginning of another life.
This is just a short guide to help dog owners, it’s not a definitive guide by any means. All the training details listed are based on experience and my opinion on what to do.