When I welcomed our first baby, Luke, we did a lot of preparation to get our dog, Dory ready for not being the only child. We are now getting ready for our twins arrival in September, and fortunately Dory is well versed in babies and children. This is a very popular topic with young growing families and one that can be very stressful. Recently I presented on this topic at a parenting event and there were so many questions and concerns from new parents to be. Here are a few helpful hints that I advise my clients and young families, which I used to prepare Dory for Luke’s arrival:
- Make a Plan- That seems like a funny thing to say. I feel like pregnancy is all about making a plan. Planning doctors appointments, birth plans, planning a nursery, and one million other plans. With everything going on with the baby planning, try and establish a specific plan for training and working with your dog. Establish a timeline for your pregnancy with specific goals and tools you and your partner are going to use with your dog to help get them ready for your new baby. Do not wait until the last minute!
- Teach your pet basic obedience training skills- This one step is crucial to establishing roles and who is in charge. These basic training skills can be worked on throughout your entire pregnancy and thereafter. There are many options to work with your pet on basic obedience training. For instance, hiring a dog trainer to come to your home, group training courses for both you and your pet, and/or teaching yourself with books and online articles about how to train your pet. The end goal should be that they listen and follow your lead and command before your baby arrives. I have great trainers in the area that I recommend to my clients. Ask your veterinarian who they refer to for training.
- Four months before baby’s arrival gradually introduce your pet to new experiences, sights, sounds and smells to help prepare them for lifestyle changes. Let your pet see and smell any new baby clothes, toys, or products you bring into your home. Practice the changes in your daily routine that will occur when you have your new baby arrives. For example, find new times to walk your dog or take him or her to the park that will still be convenient when you have your baby. As difficult as it may be, start giving your pet a little less attention than normal and fight the urge to load on the attention knowing they will not get as much when the baby arrives. Too much attention will make the transition harder for your pet.
- 1 to 2 months before baby’s arrival, anticipate changes that you will make to your dog’s daily routine, and start making those changes. Introduce your dog to baby sights, sounds, and smells. Practice with a doll or other friend’s babies (in my case I had Katie bring Mason and Charlee over to play with Dory and have her slobber all over them), which is a great way to prepare your pet for the baby’s touch and movements. And when your baby arrives, before your new addition leaves the hospital to come home for the first time, have your partner bring home a blanket that the baby used in the hospital and give it to your pet so they can get used to the smell and the idea of sharing with their new sibling!
These are the very basic suggestions to help you get into the mindset of what to do. There is more in depth information available for training and initiating new schedules. Make sure to read reliable sources and not just anything on the internet. I love this website on Preparing Your Dog For Your New Baby. Please pass this along to any new moms and dads with pets.
And don’t forget, most dogs and cats adjust well to new family members. It just takes some time and patience. It is easy to get caught up in the stress of everything. Try and enjoy the process and take lots of cute pics of your babies together. One of my best memories was walking into our home for the first time from the hospital and introducing Dory to Luke. Their love for each other melts me!!
PRESENTATION AT A PARENTING EVENT (click for short video)