It can be stressful for both the parents and a family dog when it comes time to bring home a baby. There are a lot of things that change in the home with the addition of a baby. Smells, sounds, furniture, time and attention levels for the pup, human emotions are often all over the map, and let’s not forget about sleep deprivation (sometimes even the pups get less sleep initially too). This can make things tricky to navigate for all involved.
So I wanted to start a blog series related to bringing home baby, later on I will talk more about adding a puppy to a family with existing children too. Much like child rearing you will find all SORTS of advice concerning raising babies and dogs together. And honestly there is usually no one way to do things when it comes to dogs (or kids). You have to find what works for you and your family, experiment and trust your gut.
Being a trainer, you know I am allll for training your dog. It just provides for the most fair way to teach your dog what is expected, reduce stress levels for all, and it increases enjoyment of having a dog in your life.
So here are 3 things you can teach your dog BEFORE baby arrives to make the transition a little less stressful for all. Of course this is just scratching the surface but I find all of these things have been super helpful not only for myself with our family but also with my clients.
1. Crate train your pup.
I know crates carry some negative stigma for some people, but they honestly are amazing tools and can keep your dog and child safe. Think of it like a pack and play for your dog. You introduce it in a positive light, don’t hold negativity towards the use of it and it can prove to be an amazing aid in doing life together. It’s not a crutch or babysitter, you still need to meet your dogs needs for attention and exercise or it can turn into a negative thing to your dog.
A couple reasons WHY I love crates.
It’s a great way to help structure your dog’s day, and give them a mental break from decision making. Mine know it as a zen zone and relax in their crates for a nap. They know they don’t have to worry about a thing in their crates. Remember the addition of a baby can be stressful, so this is a great stress free zone for your dog as it’s predictable, reliable, unchanging, and is spiked with tasty/fun goodies at random too.
It also keeps the dog out of the way, quiet, and safe. I can use it while my hands are full with baby, during tummy time to keep all safe, or while I’m trying to put baby down for a nap, or while guests are visiting, or during feeding time later on when the toddler just wants to feed the dog more than themselves (and sometimes these foods could be toxic to the pups). Seriously, crate time comes in handy for all sorts of things.
If your pup was crate trained as a puppy but then over time you used it less and less as they became reliable, awesome it should be an easy transition back to it.
Here is a blog I wrote a while back about introducing a crate to your dog:https://syriusdog.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/crate-games-food-for-thought/
If your dog was once crate conditioned you could go back to this to provide a positive refresher and cover all your bases. Feeding meals in the crate is a fantastic way to create a positive association too as most dogs love their food. If you need more help find a local trainer to help you navigate crate training.
2. Teach your dog to eat promptly
Whether you like to feed your dog in the kitchen, laundry room or their crate… having your dog eat promptly is super helpful when babies come around.
Firstly it will help you better pattern any potty outings in conjunction with other daily life happenings. When you are changing diapers all day, the last thing you will want to do is deal with dog messes too from your dog grazing. Combine this with feeding in the crate and your chances of puppy accidents drastically decrease.
Secondly, an empty dog bowl is hard to guard. I know your little one won’t be mobile for a while but it’s always best to stay ahead of any problems through prevention. Many dog bites happen while the dog is guarding their food dish. I was contacted about this twice this past week alone. If your dog is allowed to graze all day it leaves much more room for something to happen between your pup and baby.
Thirdly, it’s actually mentally healthier for your pup to eat promptly as it fulfills their opportunistic side that wants to scavenge and hunt for their food. By leaving food available all day you take away this scavenge and hunt opportunity and it actually can mess with their psyche and cause unnecessary stress and anxieties. These in turn often lead to other behaviors as well.Is your dog a picky eater or grazer?
Wondering how you can encourage them to eat promptly. It’s super simple, just put the food bowl down in a quiet place for 5 minutes or so. If they don’t begin to eat in that time, remove the bowl and do not offer again until the next designated meal time. Healthy dogs won’t starve themselves, it may take some tuff love but after a couple missed meals most dogs will begin to readily eat. And in the end it will benefit everyone in the house.
Having your dog readily eat is also handy when you want to use food as a way to provide some extra brain work like puzzles, dispensing toys, or a snuffle mat like above. Any little bit of mental work you can provide daily is a win win for all.
3. Teach your dog Place
Besides a nice heel walk the Place command is probably my client’s favorite thing their dogs learn during training. It is SO easy to incorporate into daily life during cooking, cleaning, homework, when guests arrive, tummy time, nap time, basically anytime you wish your dog would just sit still and chill.
It allows your pup to enjoy life with you but in a relaxed and calm state of mind. It helps keep the pup out of the way, and provides a clear boundary to advocate for both pup and baby as time goes on. This is pretty much what my dogs do most of the day when indoors. It was how I encouraged calm whenever the baby was around, just to build a respectful relationship from the beginning while allowing them to be part of the family too.
As you can imagine, having a dog running about, barking and carrying on is SO not ideal with a new infant around.
Basically I ask a dog to hop onto a bed/cot/chair/bench… something with obvious physical edges and they stay there until I release them. They can choose what position is comfortable, often they end up just laying down eventually. I choose comfortable locations for them to work place for a while, and all you have to worry about is that they stay on that object so it’s simple to follow through with.
Sound too good to be true? It’s totally possibly with work, and is technically easy to teach it just takes some time and follow through. You can see how I use place with the training dogs on my Syrius Dog Facebook page. And you tube has all sorts of videos explaining how to teach it.
So there you have it, 3 simple things to start working on before baby that will make your life a heck of a lot easier when your bundle of joy comes home. The newborn stage really is a precious and fleeting time, I hope these tips help you all enjoy it thoroughly.