By Roohi Kulkarni Kale*
Congratulations! You are soon adding a new member to your family. It is a happy yet overwhelming time preparing for the little one, while taking care of yourself. It is equally important to start preparing your pooch for the changes before the baby comes, giving him time to settle into the new routine without overwhelm or retaliation.
What to Prepare During Pregnancy:
- Getting your pooch used to many people being around all the time since you may get a lot of visitors to meet or stay at your home post-delivery.
- Allowing them to cuddle with you and not banishing them out of your room or away from you over-night if he was allowed these before pregnancy.
- Setting up a routine that will be similar to when the baby arrives including alone time in a quiet place for him to retreat if he gets overwhelmed.
- Get your pooch familiar with baby things like the stroller, toys that make noise, baby food smell, car seat, etc.
- Do small training sessions to desensitize your pooch to baby sounds, movements, and actions that humans will do as rocking the baby, feeding, etc. Since we don’t do these movements generally, it can spook the pooch if he is not used to it.
- Shift your pooch’s food and water bowls and toys to a room that won’t be accessible to your baby.
- Delegate tasks that you used to do for your pooch but won’t be able to do eventually.
- Hire professionals such as dog walkers, groomers, and pet sitters whose services may be required when the baby arrives.
- Join subscriptions for dog food, toys, and accessories so you may never run out of dog supplies having to search for them at the last minute.
Train Your Pooch to Follow These Commands under Any Circumstances:
- Drop it: In case he picks up baby’s toys.
- No/ impulse control: If he is thinking of jumping on the baby’s bed or putting her things in his mouth.
- Place: When things get overwhelming, your pooch can go to his bed and stay there happily till the situation calms.
- Not to snatch: If your pooch is used to taking treats or toys from your hand, especially when you are moving it around, he may try to grab things from the baby’s hand as well. Teach him to take things only when you give him the command ‘take it’.
How to Introduce Pooch to Your Newborn:
- Get baby’s used clothes or blankets from the hospital for your pooch to smell and get familiar with the baby’s smell.
- Don’t make your pooch and baby meet when either or both are overwhelmed or excited. Both of them should be calm.
- Exercise your pooch and ensure that he is mentally satisfied.
- Don’t force the baby to touch or lay on the pooch and don’t force your pooch to come closer than he wants to by himself.
- Keep the interactions short and happy. If you see signs of stress in your pooch, stop the interaction and remove them from each other’s company.
- Allow your pooch to unwind after the meet by giving him a chew stick, taking him for a walk, or simply allowing him to go to his bed.
Signs of Stress to Watch for:
- Trying to get away from the baby
- Making his eyes very large
- Lying very still
- Yawing emphatically
- Excessively licking himself
- Growling when baby is close
What to Do If the Pet Dog Is Feeling Neglected:
- Try to follow his routine as much as possible. Dogs feel happy and relaxed when they know what to expect.
- Spend time with your pooch without the baby. Getting undivided attention helps them to bond with you without added stress or feeling the need to compete with the baby.
- Ensure that their playtime, walk time, food, and all other activities they look forward to during the day are stress-free and not neglected. The constant presence of the baby, especially, if he is trying or being very loud during your pooch’s food time, will add unnecessary stress to your pooch.
- Include him in a few baby activities as well. You can combine his play time where someone is playing ball with him while you are rocking the baby. You can also combine your pooch’s walks with outdoor stroller time for the baby.
- You may want to increase his physical and mental activity if he isn’t getting much attention from humans temporarily. Setting up toys where your pooch can be self-entertained, like food toys or frozen chew toys will keep him entertained.
- Increase time with nature. If you take your pooch for a swim, a run in an open field, or a trek in the mountains, it will help him unwind and get rid of any pent-up energy or stress.
How to Ensure Smooth Everyday Interactions:
- Give them space and time. Each pooch will take a different amount of time and will need an adjusting period. In a multi-pet household, you may see one of your pooches warming up to the new life quicker than your other pooch. Allowing them to express their personalities will help maintain the bond with you and create a new one with your baby.
- Do not punish a growl. Even though it is scary to hear your pooch growling, especially when he is near a baby, punishing the pooch for growling will worsen the situation long term. Growling is a sign that your pooch is not comfortable in that situation and we do not want him to feel that he has no choice but to bite when reprimanded for growling. Instead, remove him or the baby from the situation. Maybe he doesn’t feel comfortable sleeping on the sofa with you holding the baby. You may want to ask him to get off the sofa and go to his place where he would feel more at ease.
- Set rules for everyone. If all family members and your pooch are aware of the rules, they will know what is to be done in a particular situation. Rules like not leaving your baby and your pooch alone in the room should be enforced by everyone. Another rule could be not to keep the baby down while playing fetch with your pooch. The family should sit together and agree on rules around the baby and pooch’s activities and schedule.
- You can train your pooch.Training your pooch to fetch your baby bag will make him feel like a useful part of activities around your baby. This will reduce any competitive feelings or anxiety of the pooch.
Remember to take one step at a time and give yourself, your pooch, and your baby an adjustment period to figure out how they fit in and can thrive in the new life.
*Author is a Certified Canine Trainer from Canines Can Care (India). She is also certified as a Canine Trainer & Behaviourist from ‘The Northern Centre for Canine Behaviour’ (UK). She specializes in companion dog training, therapy dog work & aggression after completing specialized courses for the same. She also has a Post-Graduate Diploma in Animal Protection Laws form NALSAR. Recently she became a Canine Groomer from Akil’s Pawsh Pawz (India).
Roohi has pioneered the concept of pet dog training with reward based, positive reinforcement methods in Nagpur. She helps match families with the correct puppy for them and guides them from the very beginning of puppy keeping. With ‘Coach the Pooch’ dog training, her aim is to help pet owners build the best bond with their dogs through communication, compassion & commitment.
You can find her at:
Instagram & Facebook: @coachthepooch