05 November 2006

Preparing your dog for a new baby

My mom is one of the World's Greatest (Dog) Lovers. She passed this DogAge tip to me, asking "does this qualify as a Parent Hack?" Yes! The family dog always gets booted out of the resident cutie position when the baby arrives -- and new parents are often too busy and tired to notice. Says DogAge:

Start by making a list of the rules and routines your dog now follows, highlighting which ones will need to change once you have a baby in the house. Then, start introducing the changes and teaching any new rules before the baby comes.

Simple, thoughtful advice. Dogs, like kids, rely on their routines, so changing the routines gradually before the baby arrives makes good sense.

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When we were expecting our son last year, we got a great tip from our local dog trainer. Get a baby doll and carry it around with you for several weeks. Leave it on the couch or on the floor and practice getting your dog to honor the baby's space, using phrases "Be careful, that's the baby," etc. The advantage to this is that you'd much rather be doing the training (and any subsequent mistakes) with the doll. It also gets the dogs used to the idea of having a little sidekick and enables you to have the time to still give them lots of love and reassurance, which certainly won't be the case when junior arrives!

I also had my husband bring home a blanket from the hospital that the baby had been wrapped in (I had a section so I was there for a couple of days.) He placed it in a communal dog/cat bed so that everyone could get a good sniff at the new creature that would be coming home soon.

Also check out Dogster (http://www.dogster.com) for a fun photo-sharing site (of the dogs, duh). They have a lot of good tips and advice on that site.

Something to be prepared for: no matter how much you prepare your dog, there is going to be a significant amount of adjustment for your pet.

Aside from the fact that the pet may get less attention - our dog certainly has - the stress of having a new resident in the house, the crying, the smells, the change in owners behavior... all of these are causes of stress for your dog, and the dog may react negatively.

I just want to second Marcy's remark. Bringing home a used blanket from the hospital, even a little stained, is a great way to introduce the new one to the pups. Dogs are such scent-centered creatures, it's definitely the top trick.

Oh yeah, and another thing - when my wife came home from the hospital, I dropped her off at the door and then circled the block a few times with the baby. That gave her a few minutes to reunite with the dogs before introducing the baby. Remember - they haven't seen her for a few days and will be excited. Give them a few minutes to settle down over her return before the big excitement arrives.

I hadn't heard the idea about carrying a baby doll around, that's great! Probably a pretty helpful way for us humans to adjust too :-)

We realized just how important our dog's routine was (like our toddler's), when a move resulted in "accidents" long after both were potty trained.

Gradual adjustments are definitely the way to go.

About the baby-sented blanked to bring home to the dog before the baby arrives:

My wife and I recently took a class with a nationally respected pet behaviorist here in Chicago. She said this idea, while not harmful, is certainly overrated. Dogs can smell things thousands of times better than we can. They have most likely smelled the baby in the womb well before the birth so bringing home the scent, won't be that much of a surprise to them.

Also, she had an interesting idea about bringing in the new-born. There are these theories about dad first alone, then mom in alone, then mom in with baby, then dad in with baby. Again, she said this isn’t a bad thing, but another idea might be:

Come on in and keep holding the baby right up next to you. Say hi to the dog and keep walking in like everything is normal. It will get the dog back into routine much quicker when they see you enter the door with the baby. So, pretty much act like the baby has always been there, it’s a extension of you, and the dog it to treat the baby like it would treat you. (Obviously, if you have jumping problems with the dog, those need to be corrected well before the baby comes home.)

-Todd in Chicago

This includes cleansers, dish soap, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, antifreeze, plants, etc. Keep all poisonous items out of reach, either in a locked cabinet or in an area your pet is not allowed, such as the garage or the basement. If you have a plant that is poisonous to your pet, consider getting something else instead. Even if it’ s up high your cat can still get to it if he’ s determined enough. For a list of poisonous plants, click here.

Correct use of the training leash is important, not only during training sessions, but at all times. Always having a loop over your thumb and your hand closed into a fist, prevents even the strongest dog from unexpectedly jerking the leash through your fingers and breaking free. Whether it's the hand-loop or a loop formed by marrying the leash over your thumb, the result is the same. Pulling on the leash merely causes your grip to tighten

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