Getting Your Dog Ready For the New Baby

Many pet owners consider their four-legged friend to be their first "baby." However, there may come a day when a new bundle of joy enters the household in the form of a human baby and your canine babies have to assume their new sibling roles. The addition of a child into the household can often be a big adjustment for many dogs, as well as their owners. It is important to foster as smooth a transition as possible for your dog during these changing times. Creating a happy and safe environment for your new baby and for your dog by preparing ahead of time can help decrease the stress once the new baby arrives.

If your pet has behavioral concerns, it is important to address them early so they can be resolved before the baby's arrival. For example, if your dog has a tendency to jump up on people, you may want to teach him not to jump so he doesn't inadvertently harm the baby. Ensure that your pet has been trained so that he knows that playful biting is not acceptable behavior. If you have any concerns about managing your pet's behavior on your own, consult a professional trainer. Most trainers are familiar with the issues associated with dogs and the introduction of a new baby to the household. They can guide you to help create a harmonious environment for both your pet and the rest of the family.

The introduction of a new baby can be a hectic time and many find that they have less time to spend with their pets. This decrease in time and attention for your dog may create stress for him. You can decrease your dog's stress level and continue to make him feel loved and special by ensuring that he still gets attention. By establishing a structured daytime routine, during which you set aside time to spend with your pet, you can help to decrease your pet's stress. Initiating this daily schedule during your pregnancy rather than waiting until the baby arrives will foster a smoother transition for your pet. Pets feel comfortable with a routine and by showing them that the routine does not change once the baby enters the household, they will be less likely to feel stressed. Moreover, your pet will still feel important and will be less likely to get jealous once the baby arrives. It may also be helpful to get your pet accustomed to spending time with more than one family member in the household so that he is not solely seeking attention from one person when the baby arrives.

You can help your pet view the baby's arrival as a positive experience by using treat rewards to introduce new behavior expectations and to help maintain basic obedience training. For example, if your dog is used to sitting on your lap, help your dog get used to sitting nicely alongside you on the floor instead by only allowing him in your lap when invited. Use treats to reward him for good behavior, and for listening on command. Use a baby doll to get him used to something else occupying your lap. Frequently play with your pet's ears, feet, mouth, and tail, as these are often the first areas on your pet that a baby will reach for. Make sure your pet is comfortable with you touching him all over, and reward him for allowing you to do so. If your pet is not used to having visitors in the home, have your friends visit prior to the baby's arrival to get your pet used to company. Have your friends offer treats or just some extra attention to show him that having friends in the house can be a positive experience. When it is time to introduce your new baby to your pet, first bring him a blanket or a hat that your baby has worn and allow him to acquire the baby's scent. Supervise the introduction of your baby to your pet, and never leave them together unattended.

The most important thing is the safety of your baby and your pets. As your baby grows, teach her to be gentle with your pet. Use and repeat a word (such as "nice" or "gentle") that goes along with an action (such as nicely petting or snuggling) so that your child associates that word with being kind to your pet. Use baby gates to block off areas where you do not want your pet to go. If your pet is allowed in the baby's room, make sure to supervise visits. Keep all garbage cans, especially those containing diapers, closed tightly so that your pet cannot access them. Continue to reward good behavior for both your pet and your child.

Every animal responds differently to a new baby in the home. Some pets will show changes in their behavior even prior to the baby's arrival. Some may react with minor jealously and others take to their role as a sibling and act in a protective manner, often guarding the crib and protecting the baby. Many pets are not affected by the presence of the baby and continue to go about their normal routine. However, to help make it an easier transition for everyone, it is important to prepare your pet as best as possible for all the changes and adjustments that come with the presence of a new baby in the home.

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