Congratulations on your little person in the making! So many things to organise, but one is especially important and can’t be left to the last minute. That’s the introduction of your new arrival to your original baby, your fur baby, and this should be months in the making. I’ve broken it down to 3 phases.
1. Growing the babe!
Start these steps at least 3 months prior to the due date to help condition your dog to the massive change in their world, which is coming right up.
- Get realistic about your dog’s temperament, not all dogs are ok with kids. If there’s a history of aggression and its not going to work for your dog, set them up in a happy situation that will. If all’s good then read on.
- Back to training- brush up on those commands that will come in handy and ensure your buddy listens to you, don’t be afraid to get help from dog trainers or behaviourists, as this is so important for your relationship with them post-birth.
- Make your pram an early purchase so you can start walking your dog next to it. You probably think this sounds embarrassing to walk your empty pram with your dog, (I did!), but it’s worth it. By training your dog to walk next to it, you make getting out easy so, a) your dog is happy and exercised and, b) you are happy and exercised.
- Teach and reward your fur kid when they are sitting calmly next to you and not always on you, as this is where the new kid in town will be taking up residence, and we don’t want any jealousy.
- Set up the house the way it will be when the babe’s here, if there are areas your pup won’t be allowed to access, such as where your babe lies on the floor, then start the restrictions now.
- Consider a sound recording of a newborn cry, so that it’s not a new thing when the real one takes over.
2. In hospital
- Take a baby blanket with your baby’s scent back home to your dog to investigate.
- Try to keep your dog’s routine going (as you’re away, have your partner or a family member help), and ensure they are well exercised and happy. You may continue to need outside help for this even when you are back home.
- Pheromones: A mimic of the happy dog pheromone known as dog appeasing pheromone. It’s available as collars or diffusers, it helps calm many dogs and this is a good time to use it, as well as initially when the babe is home.
3. Home again
- The introduction. Ensure your dog has been exercised by someone prior to your arrival, to help rid them of any excess energy. Stay calm whilst holding your baby, so your dog can feel calm also. Allow sniffing of the baby and reward your dog’s gentle investigations. It’s important this is a positive experience.
- Continue your dog's routine as much as possible
- Walk your baby in the pram with your now well-trained pup
- Follow the mantra never to leave your baby or toddler alone with your dog, regardless of how much you trust them. Babies and little people are NOT predictable and your dog is at their mercy. A tail pull, eye poke, you name it, could happen.
Given all the health benefits of having a dog, both for you and your baby, (notably less allergies and asthma in kids that grow up with a fur mate in their first year), the effort put into the introduction will pay back in spades.
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