If you’re expecting but already have a canine fur baby at home, you might be thinking about what your four-legged friend will make of the new arrival. Perhaps they have already been showing interest in your bump or raising an eyebrow at the buggy as you unpack it from its box. Whether you think your dog will be delighted at having a new family member to love or will be somewhat unimpressed at the change, it’s a good idea to do some preparation in the weeks and months leading up to your due date, not only to ensure harmony in the home but to make your day-to-day life a little easier.
1. Slow and steady
If you still have a way to go before your due date, you have the luxury of introducing changes at a slower pace, which helps make the transition smoother for everyone. It’s a good idea to use positive reinforcement to reward good behaviour rather than scolding them for being naughty. If you catch them sitting quietly in the corner without any instruction from you, remember to reward them to help reinforce this lovely behaviour.
2. Address unwanted behaviour
Even if your dog is as good as gold, try to anticipate the things that will only start to bother you once you have a baby to look after. Whether it’s sitting on your lap as soon as you’ve sat down, getting too excited when the doorbell goes or pulling on the lead, work on discouraging these habits now so they don’t annoy you when your baby arrives.
3. Pram ready
If you’re planning on taking your dog with you on walks with your new baby, it’s a good idea to get your furry friend accustomed to walking alongside a pram beforehand. Some dogs can become fixated on or frightened of the wheels, so doing some trial walks with the empty buggy will help your dog get used to this new piece of kit. You’ll also be able to address any practicality or logistics issues that arise such as which side of the footpath is easiest for you to keep your dog on, whether your lead is too long or too short or if you need to teach your dog to wait at the open front door while you get the buggy out.
4. Switch up your routine
It goes without saying that a new baby disrupts the whole family’s usual routine – even the dog’s! Try mixing up the day a bit to get your dog used to different walk and mealtimes, so they don’t pester you at certain times when your baby arrives.
5. Bulky items
As well as the pram, set up any large or strange-looking pieces of kit that may overly interest or frighten your dog ahead of time. Think cots, cribs, bouncers, car seats and any other bulky items that your dog may come into contact with. The longer they have to get used to them, the less concerned or curious they will be once there’s a baby in them.
6. Role play
You’ll probably feel a bit silly but try carrying a doll around the house with you, cuddling and cooing over it as if it were a real baby. Watch your dog to see how they react – do they think it’s play time? Do they become excited? Perhaps they jump up for a better look? Does their interest change when you wrap a blanket around the doll? Role-playing allows you to practice ‘real-life’ situations, so you can pre-empt any issues that come to the surface.
7. Check-up time
It’s worth taking your dog for a check-up before just your baby arrives while you have relatively more time to treat any ailments on conditions. Use the opportunity to make sure all their flea and worm treatments are up to date too.
8. New boundaries
If your dog currently has free rein of the house, you might be thinking about making some areas out of bounds once your baby arrives. For example, if your dog sleeps on your bed now but you know you’ll want to stop this, introduce the new rules well in advance to give your dog time to adjust. If you’re worried about leaving your dog alone at night, leaving the radio on can help keep them calm.
9. A warm welcome
When you arrive home from the hospital, let someone else carry your baby in. Your dog may not have seen you for a few days and will naturally be happy to see you – and also curious to see what you’ve brought with you, so it’s best to have your hands free. It’s also worth training your dog to be calm each time you enter the house in the weeks leading up to the birth if they’re usually excited to see you.
10. Get a dogsitter
Don’t forget to organise for someone to look after your dog when you’re in the hospital giving birth! Given labour’s unpredictable nature, it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve handed over the dogsitting duties to someone you can depend on at extremely short notice. Choose someone your dog is already familiar and comfortable with to help keep disruption to a minimum.