Videos of dogs snuggling babies make pet parents swoon, but they also make dog trainers cringe. Preparing a dog for a new human sibling is a sensitive process; we want our dogs to be a part of the family, but have to consider safety first. Pregnancy can be overwhelming on its own, so where to start when adding your dog to the mix? Emily Carl, CPDT-KA, CCBC, FFCP and Head of Pet Services at Doggo is here to offer guidance.
Does your dog know you’re pregnant?
Dogs can detect cancer, blood sugar levels, changes in barometric pressure, and other subtle shifts, so it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that, yes, your dog knows when you’re pregnant. Dogs largely detect these subtle changes through their powerful sense of smell. They can certainly tell that there’s a hormonal change in pregnant women, though they may not fully comprehend that it’s due to pregnancy.
Introduce the Senses
Prepare your dog for a new baby by introducing as much baby-specific stimuli as you can before the baby arrives. Put the crib and other baby furniture out as soon as possible and praise your dog for investigating it calmly. Get your dog familiar with baby sounds by playing recordings of baby cries and coos while your dog is having fun or eating. If you know someone with a baby, ask to borrow their baby blanket to introduce baby scent.
While your baby and dog should always be supervised, it can help to gradually train tolerance for the occasional poke or prod. Still, the importance of advocating for your dog is paramount. Parents must advocate for their dogs by taking actions to prevent children from jumping or pulling them. No dog should be expected to tolerate being jumped on while sleeping or repeated tail yanks, even if it’s at the hands of a cute toddler. Mistakes do happen and sometimes we’re not fast enough to stop a reaching arm towards that swishing tail, so it’s better to be prepared for those accidents!
Baby and Dog Proof
New parents read a lot about preparation for a baby and how to babyproof their home. Consider the dog in this as well. Training a dog to stop forward movement or to go to bed is helpful in preventing access to off-limits areas. However, it can also help to incorporate baby gates to prevent your dog gaining access to areas where you may not want them once the baby arrives. Look at your home through the eyes of your dog. Baby toys look a lot like dog toys and your dog will not know the difference. The safest way to keep your dog from baby items is to prevent access.
Set The New Routine
Dogs thrive on routine at every stage of life. An important step in getting your furry friend ready for a new baby is to establish a daily routine that will remain consistent once the baby arrives. If this routine is drastically different from your current routine, start making that shift now. Establish fixed play and walk times for your dog and, if you haven’t already, gradually acclimate your dog to periods of absence so alone time with your baby is not so unusual. New parents have their hands full with a newborn and the change often impacts the family dog who is used to getting sole focus. Setting a routine early on to make time for your dog will help them cope with having to share your attention.