Is your fur kid going to have a 'sibling' soon? Here's how to help him or her transition into a 'new life' of having a new family member. Our step-by-step guide teaches a dog mom the ropes of preparing a dog for a newborn, using milestones like when you find out you are pregnant or bring your newborn home. Let's unpack this.
WHEN YOU GET TO KNOW YOU ARE PREGNANT
Preparing a dog for a newborn is something you need to do from the get-go.
STEP 1: Sign him or her up for an obedience class. An instructor can help correct habits like jumping up to greet you at the door, which may not be safe for you when you have a bump.
STEP 2: Expose your dog to babies or children by taking him or her to the pack or other public places where dogs are allowed. If your dog has never been around babies or children, this will help him or her get used to how they look and smell and behave generally.
3 MONTHS BEFORE D-DAY
When you are around three months to your due date, you need to proactively prep up your dog for the baby.
STEP 3: Do what we call the 'Doll Trick'. Get a doll and start treating it like it's a real baby. Carry it around the house in a baby sling, bottle-feed or coo to it. Make sure your dog sees you doing all this. You can also put the doll in a baby stroller and push it around your neighbourhood while walking your pooch. This will get him or her used to the stroller, which you will carry your baby in most of the time.
STEP 4: Help your dog to get used to baby smells. Let him or her smell some baby powder or lotion. Dogs have a great sense of smell, so this is a surefire way to get them to familiarise themselves with your baby.
STEP 5: Teach him or her the 'back' signal. Your dog is so used to being all over you. But when you are with your baby, he or she will need to understand that you need some space. The 'back' signal will help your dog know when to let you two alone. Stand in front of your dog and say the words 'back'. Hold out your hand to him or her. Then shuffle towards him or her. He or she will instinctively back up. Reward your dog anytime he or she does it right; pat him or her on the back or give him or her a biscuit. Do this over the next couple of months. As your dog gets better with his or her lessons, do the signal, but this time, don't shuffle towards him or her as you usually do. Your dog will eventually get it.
1 MONTH BEFORE D-DAY
STEP 6: Find a sitter or somebody to take care of your dog during your stay at the hospital. This should be someone your dog knows well, like a relative, a close friend or a sitter he or she is used to. This person has to be reliable. You also need to have a backup sitter just in case your first choice disappoints you.
STEP 7: A baby and dog will be a handful. You may need to sign your dog up for dog daycare for the first few days when you bring your newborn home. It's best to do so now and try out a couple of them to see which one he or she likes.
2 WEEKS BEFORE D-DAY
You could be due any day now, so it's time to prepare so you are not taken by surprise if anything out of the blue happens.
STEP 8: Get everything the sitter will need ready. Dish your dog's food out into containers and put them in the refrigerator. Write down emergency numbers like the vet's. Put your dog's leash and spare key to the house in a place the sitter can easily find them.
STEP 9: Spend some quality time with your dog. It may take a long time after this to get an opportunity once the baby arrives. Stroll around with your pooch or snuggle up with him or her on your bed.
DURING YOUR HOSPITAL STAY
After delivery, you may need to stay at the hospital while you recover.
STEP 10: Get a relative or friend to check in on your dog and sitter. You'll need to know if the sitter was able to get into the house.
STEP 11: Let your partner or relative take some of your baby's first clothes home for your dog to sniff at. It will immediately get him or her used to the baby's smell, so when you bring the baby home, he or she will identify the smell and be welcoming.
WHEN YOU COME HOME WITH YOUR NEWBORN
Your dog will be overjoyed to see you again after a while, but remember you now have a baby. A lot of things are going to change.
STEP 12: Hand the baby over to your partner so you can greet your dog first.
STEP 13: Sit down with your baby and let your dog sniff him or her as a way of introducing the two to each other.
STEP 14: Give your dog some treats for behaving when you start breastfeeding the baby at home. Dogs are smart. They will make a connection between feeding time, behaving well and being given treats. Anytime you are breastfeeding, he or she will be on his or her best behaviour.
STEP 15: Get your partner or someone to walk your dog. You will be too occupied with the baby to do this with him or her as you always did. Your dog will need physical activity to burn off energy. Otherwise, he or she will become hyperactive and misbehave.
With the arrival of your newborn, a new life begins with your dog. Dogs are sensitive and can pick up all the signals of a changing environment. Their first reaction to this will be a change in their behaviour (often for the worse!). Here are two ways to handle the situation:
1. Instead of telling him or her off all the time, divert your dog's behaviour to something positive or something that makes him or her happy. If your dog is going through the garbage, give him or her something to chew on.
2. Make your dog a part of your routine with your baby. Have him or her around when you are breastfeeding or diaper-changing. Talk to both your dog and the baby during such activities. With time, your dog will warm up to your baby, and hopefully, they will become buddies for life.
Finally, these tips will help make your home as peaceful as it should regardless of having a dog and a newborn under the same roof:
1. Fix safety gates to make some rooms inaccessible to your dog. That way, your baby will be able to play and work on his or her crawling and rolling around.
2. Buy your dog new playthings, so he or she doesn't go chewing on your baby's toys.
3. Separate your baby's eating area from your dog's. Dogs don't like people messing around with their food.
4. Teach your baby to play with your dog gently.
5. Always supervise. Never leave your baby in the company of your dog without anyone watching over them. Babies are known to be unpredictable in their behaviour, and this can provoke a dog.
By Nana Ama Afoa Osae I Writer I GreatWonderful Team
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