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How to prepare the dog for the arrival of a baby I. – before birth

author Lucy Byrne | Care and raising

When your family grows by a new (human) member, it isn’t necessarily a happy event for everyone. For many dogs, it’s very difficult to come to terms with such situation, therefore, it’s better to start preparing them already before the baby is born. This will make it easier for the dog and you will secure the safety of your child.

The child should come into contact with the dog only when the dog is ready. While some get used to a newcomer quickly, for others, it might be quite an issue. That’s why it’s necessary to start preparing the dog for the baby as soon as possible. I have summarised the steps into several basic points:

1. The dog should master basic commands

For the safety of the baby and for the sake of your nerves, it’s important that the dog thoroughly masters the basic commands. This way, you will prevent the animal from getting in the way when you’re taking care of the child, changing its diaper, for instance. Apart from the commands such as sit, down and stay – in the Czech Republic maybe “beat it” as well – the dog should be trained to go to its place. When you put the baby on the couch or on the bed, for instance, you have to make sure that it will be safe from the dog. In the same way, you should stop your dog from going to places or sleeping in places where the child will be resting. The baby needs peace and quiet to rest, especially during the first months of its life.

2. Introduce the dog to new things

Already before the arrival of the baby, introduce the dog to new things in the apartment such as the cot, pram and the like. Let him sniff them, but make sure to let him know properly, that these things are off limits and reassure him of this before the baby comes. You also have to train the dog thoroughly so that he distinguishes between his toys and the child’s toys. Some dogs tend to be proprietary, so it can take a lot of work in their case. Children have the habit of sucking and biting everything, therefore, it is undesirable for them to come into contact with a toy that your dog had in his muzzle. The dog has to really learn these restrictions before the arrival of the baby, this way, it will not associate them with it in a negative way.

3. Get the dog accustomed to child sounds

Some dogs may react to a child’s cry or whoop with undesirable behaviour. They may also be afraid or bark. That’s the reason why it’s not a bad idea to introduce them to the sounds already before the arrival of this little speaking trumpet. You can buy a CD with child sounds and play it regularly for them or associate the sounds with a positive experience: a stroke, praise, a game or a treat.

4. Get the dog accustomed to a new regimen

If you already know, that after the baby is born, you won’t be able to walk the dog like up to now or to feed him at the usual time and the like, try to introduce all the changes in the daily regimen before the baby is born.

5. Introduce the dog to the baby’s scent before its arrival

It may help the dog, if you bring him a thing from the maternity ward with the baby’s scent so that he could familiarise himself with it before the first contact.

6. Find out the dog’s reactions to children

If it’s possible, try to get the dog come into contact with a child, for instance, take him for a visit to your acquaintances. This way, you will find out his reactions to various situations and you will have a better idea about what you have to work on before your own baby is born.

Have you got any other advice how to prepare the dog for a baby already before its birth? I haven’t been through this yet, so I welcome any observations from practice.

Next time, I will try to summarise how to introduce the dog to a baby and what other rules to establish.