Getting Ready for a Baby
Lisa Kerley BSC KPA-CTP
Ideally you’ve just found out the happy news and want to start preparing your first kid (the one with four legs) for the new arrival as soon as possible. The key to a smooth transition is early preparation. It is very important to establish new patterns and routines beforehand, so your dog does not associate the changes with the baby. Not only will you make things easier for your dog, but with some preparation early on, you won’t feel overwhelmed as the big day approaches.
By thinking and preparing ahead you will be able to have the final game plan in place before the baby comes home. Ideally the new routine should be a normal part of your lives at least a month before the baby comes on the scene. The more changes needed to get there, the longer the preparation period required.
So where do you start? Here are a couple of basic things to start thinking about.
Make a list of all the ways you think your dog’s routine will change.
In the house:
Is your dog your shadow in the house?
Does your dog get up on the furniture?
Does she make up her own routine for most of the day?
Do you typically respond to your dog’s requests for attention, such as pawing or jumping?
If your dog presently has free-run of the house, you will need to establish a routine of regular quiet times throughout the day. In addition, creating a special place for your dog to settle will be very helpful. With a baby present, your dog will need to respect the times when you require some space to safely feed and hold the baby. Along with not having to worry about tripping over a dog that is constantly underfoot, she will need to be able to chill out while you’re attending to someone else.
If the duration or schedule of your dog’s walks or exercise activities will be different once the baby arrives, start making the adjustments towards that new routine now.
Will someone else be helping out with the walks? If so, have them start taking over some of the walks now.
And don’t forget about your dog’s transportation. If your dog’s place in the car will change, get your dog used to it now (crate, seat belt harness or simply a new position in the car).
Identify the things that will be novel to your dog.
Many dogs find the cry of a baby upsetting, so it’s a good idea to start desensitizing your dog to the sounds of a baby beforehand. You can accomplish this with the real thing or recorded material. You can create a good association by pairing the cries and squeals with something tasty.
As well, start getting your dog used to you carrying a baby in your arms. You can do this simply by holding a swaddling of fabric. Again, don’t wait until the last minute to start desensitizing.
Note: Some dogs become agitated in the last trimester of pregnancy. They may become very clingy or stressed. It is important to not coddle, but make them feel secure through consistency and sticking with the routine you have been practicing. Complimentary tools, such as Aromatherapy and Tellington TTouch can be used to relieve your dog’s stress.
Get your dog used to going for walks with a baby now. If you hope to walk the dog and the baby together on your own, and your dog is unruly on the leash you need to start dealing with leash manners now. Don’t wait! Basic leash manners need to be in place before adding the challenge of a stroller. If your dog is polite on leash and you’ve done some initial desensitization to the stroller, you can head outside with the dog and stroller together. At first, it is easier to have one person pushing the stroller while another walks the dog. Reward your dog for staying calm and being mannerly. You can use treats during the first outings as bonus pay. When you feel ready you can try the same process on your own. The important thing is to work out any ‘bugs’ on the walks before the baby’s actually in the stroller!
Hopefully this has given you some ideas about things you need to consider while getting your dog ready for your new baby. Again, the sooner you start the smoother it will go for everyone.
In Part 2 we’ll discuss:
– the specifics of desensitizing your dog to strollers, carriers and sounds of a baby before baby comes home
– setting up resting stations your dog will love
In Part 3 we’ll discuss:
– last minute preparations
– bringing the baby home