With my husband and I expecting our first child in April, I have gone into full research mode for how to prepare our dogs, Adam and Bailey, for our little one’s arrival. My husband and I have had many conversations about boundaries, limits, and comfort levels of us both when it comes to allowing interactions between the infant and the dogs.
Even though I’m a dog trainer and kids and dogs are my specialty, I am still going to be a new parent. This will still be my first time going through the transition from full-time dog mama to full-time human mama, too.
With each family, things are slightly different. There are different personalities, different house setups, and different dog behaviors. Each time I help a family, it must be customized. Yes, there are similarities and constants, but things are always going to be slightly different. What works for one dog and one family, won’t necessarily work for the next.
In general, though, my top 5 suggestions for preparing your dog for your baby are as follows:
- Ensure your dog is comfortable behind a barrier
Barriers are going to be a part of life with your child and dog. When we don’t have the energy, time, or mental space to be on guard and actively watching the interactions between our baby and dog, putting up a sturdy barrier is a great solution to keeping everyone safe and happy. However, if your dog isn’t comfortable being separated from you, then this process becomes a little more difficult. Your dog needs to understand that just because there is a gate between them and you, that it’s okay and a good thing.
- Start playing baby noises and doing desensitization if necessary
Some dogs can find the shrill cry of a baby unnerving. They may respond in fear by cowering or leaving the room or get overexcited and want to investigate a little too much. Ideally, we want our dogs to maybe notice the sound but then ignore and go about what they were doing. If you notice your dog responding fearfully or too excitedly, then it might be a sign you need to work on some desensitization.
- Practice basic manners
Brush up on your dogs’ skills when it comes to things like leave it, stay, polite greetings, and good leash walking. Having your dog understand these basic manners will just make your life a little easier when you are sleep deprived and need your dog to know what to do.
- Teach your dog, or practice, going to a mat (or bed)
Mat work is where your dog learns to go to a specific location and relax until you give them a release cue. This is my absolute favorite thing to teach dogs because it is so useful in so many different situations. Is it baby’s turn to be on the floor doing tummy time? Send your dog to their mat with a bone. Does your dog want to be in the nursery with you while you change the baby’s diaper? Send your dog to their mat to observe. Does your dog want to be under the highchair while your toddler throws food? Sorry pup, cleanup comes after dinner – send them to their mat until cleanup time.
- Ask for help
These things take time and practice to feel comfortable. Especially if your dog has some behavioral concerns to work through. If you feel lost or overwhelmed on your journey to preparing for your baby or new child, there are many professionals out there who would be able to provide guidance for your family. Like I said earlier, every family and situation is unique so there isn’t a one size fits all when it comes to dogs and babies.
So, there you have it! My top 5 tips for preparing your dogs for your baby. Dog’s and babies aren’t always the perfect match, but with guidance and patience, they can learn to respect each other and live harmonious lives together.