You just found out you’re pregnant, and you’re not sure how your dog will react to a new tiny human. First, ask yourself a few questions. Has your dog ever been around infants or young children? If so, how did he handle this, what were those experiences like? Having a baby is a big change for you and your dog, so setting your dog up for success is imperative. Here are five tips to prepare your dog for Baby.
-Teach your dog boundaries. There is no need for your dog to go into the baby’s room, so teach him to stay out. Even if this room was previously an office or similar place that your dog was
allowed, he can learn that now it is off limits. Teach your dog the “Out” command. Walk your dog up to the doorway on a leash, stop just before the threshold to the door and say “out.” Reward him with treats for not stepping through the doorway. If he steps through, say “no, out,” and use the leash to bring him back out of the room. Repeat until he is stopping at the doorway. Sometimes a training collar can be helpful if your dog continues to try to pull through on the flat collar. Instead of applying leash pressure, say “no,” give a leash correction, then repeat the command “out”. Now take a step into the room and reward your dog for staying out even when you walk in. If he follows you in, say “no, out,” and give a leash correction back. Continue until you can walk into the room and your dog stops short of the doorway
-Use a doll wrapped up in a blanket or towel to simulate a new baby. When you bring your new baby home, chances are you are going to be holding her often. When a dog sees this new thing in your arms, he will naturally be curious about it. Teach him that he is not allowed to jump up and see it, bite at the blanket, lick the baby’s face, etc. Let him get used to seeing this new picture often until he no longer cares about it.
-Desensitize your dog to baby noises. Baby cries and screams can be very annoying to a dog and even startle the calmest of dogs if they have never heard them before. Start desensitizing your dog to different baby noises by playing them on your phone. Start with the phone at a distance and play the noise quietly, at a level where your dog does not react or shows minimal curiosity. As your dog gets used to the noises, slowly work to bring the phone closer and turn up the volume gradually. Then combine with Tip#2. Hold your doll and blanket and place your phone inside the blanket. Your dog can then get used to the noises coming from the baby in your arms. Here is a YouTube video that works well for this exercise.
-Desensitize your dog to new baby things (and teach them that they are off limits). Baby items can
potentially be scary for some dogs (such as strollers, baby bouncers, and singing stuffed animals), or tempting to chew on (like rattles, play mats with hanging toys, and other handheld toys). Show your dog these things gradually, before the baby arrives, so that they don’t wake up one morning to a living room full of scary or exciting new things. A reliable “leave it” command can be very useful to teach your dog to stay away from certain things. Additionally, desensitizing your dog to potentially scary things such as strollers or loud singing toys is very helpful.
-Enroll in obedience training. Before your baby arrives, enroll your dog in some obedience training. Whether you do a small group class to learn some
basic obedience, or opt for private lessons to work on more specific things like walking nicely with a stroller, obedience training is never a bad thing. (Be sure to ask your trainer about the “Place” command; you’ll love it!) It is important to give your dog structure and set boundaries for your dog, but also make sure he gets enough exercise and mental stimulation. Training can help with all of that!
Rebecca Lewis is a “Canine Training and Behavior Specialist” with Valor K9 Academy in Spokane, Washington. For additional training help, please contact The Valor Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.