Easing your dog’s stress over a new addition to the family
By Leslie Phelan
Your dog knows what’s up.
Well… he may not specifically be aware that your growing bump is about to burst forth another living, breathing human to share the house with, but he definitely knows that some sort of change is afoot. And as his parent and trusted pack leader, it is your job to help make him feel comfortable, calm, secure, and most importantly, like he is still a loved and valued member of the family upon baby’s arrival.
Since your hands will soon be very full, it is important to utilize as much pre-baby time as you can to acclimatize him to the upcoming change. Here are a few tips on how to make this transition as smooth and safe as possible for everyone involved:
1. Be the leader
It is always important to establish yourself as the alpha in your home pack, but that’s especially true now more than ever. Does your dog have some habits that could be troublesome once the baby comes home? If so, now is the time to smooth them out. If you aren’t confident in your ability to pull this off on your own, hire a professional – you’ll thank yourself later when you have a well-behaved dog to introduce your infant to!
2. Stay calm
How is your anxiety level right now? If you are freaking out about the upcoming addition, chances are, your dog is mirroring that back at you. Be aware of your mood, and make sure to find moments of outdoor relaxation where you can breathe deeply and enjoy your dog’s company without rushing through the motions: it will confirm to him that he’s got nothing to be anxious about either.
3. Keep your routine
It can’t be reiterated enough: you need to let the dog know he is still a priority in your life, even in the midst of all these changes. Throughout the pregnancy and after the baby is born, maintain your walk schedules so that your dog still gets his exercise and can chill out when at home. If you can’t always physically be the one to take him, arrange with someone who can.
4. Establish boundaries
In order for your dog to respect the baby, he needs to see the baby as dear property of yours worth respecting. Taking the time to allow the dog to sniff an item carrying the baby’s scent before they actually meet makes it clear that the baby is important, and gentle care must be taken in its company.
It is a good idea to make it known to your dog that the baby’s nursery is a sacred place that can’t be visited without your permission. Before baby comes home, allow him in to gently sniff the space, and only continue to let him in if he is responsive when you tell him it’s time to leave. If necessary, use a baby gate. Always be there to supervise when he comes in.
5. Reward and express thanks
Many dogs will quickly adapt to a new baby, doing things like joining in and keeping you company through your nursing schedule. Make sure to give love and rewards when you can. It’s a special time and your dog will transition more smoothly if he feels special about it too.
The whole experience of bringing a baby home doesn’t have to be extra stressful because you have a dog; in fact, this time can and should be extra joyful because of your beloved pet! Having him in the home while you’re pregnant has shown to help build a strong baby by creating immunity to allergies and asthma. But beyond that, a well-behaved and loving dog can be an infant’s most loyal protector, and play an integral role in their most treasured memories — not to mention the family photos!