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Written by Jen Walker   

Tips for Families with Dogs, expecting a Baby 

 

What to Expect When You’re Expecting should have a companion volume for families with pets. When you and your spouse are busy making plans, telling all your friends and family about the wonderful news about your soon-to-be-welcomed bundle of joy, there is often a member of the family left out…the dog or the cat.

Are you thinking about how your pets going to fit into your new lifestyle? If this is your first baby, your “new normal” will be very different than what your pet has known its whole life! Most pets are creatures of habit and can be confused and upset by change, especially sudden change. Upset pets can be disruptive, and with a new baby in your life, the very last thing you need is more disruption.

Simply being aware of these issues helps you to plan ahead, with all family members in mind, and consider how the anticipated new routines and environment will affect everyone. A proactive mind-set can resolve most issues before they even occur. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; friends and family want to know how they can contribute, and professionals who help new and expecting parents often have experience dealing with related pet issues.

Simple things to consider include who is going to walk Fido while mom is recuperating and dad is supporting mom, doing the housework, keeping up with his own job, answering all those questions about how the new baby is settling in and on and on…. Take an honest look at the daily requirements that keep your household running smoothly, add all the newborn tasks to the list, and then subtract mom’s usual contributions, to get an idea of how difficult the first few months with a new baby can be. Write this task list down and then figure which tasks can be outsourced for a few weeks while mom and baby settle. Then you’ll be ready to find friends, family, or a professional service (such as a dog walker) to handle those tasks. Doing this well before the delivery date will save you from panic and stress once your baby is here and you need the help immediately, and will ensure whoever is helping can plan their own availability.

Do your research and make your choices in advance. Decide where friends and family will be welcome and able to help, and where professionals might better suit your needs. Find a cleaning company that specializes in the kind of service you’ll need: using nontoxic and low-scent cleaners (new moms and babies have an extra-sensitive sense of smell), quiet and quick employees who can come at specific times of the day to fit your new routines, and services that come strongly recommended by other families that had similar needs. Do they wash windows? Fold laundry? Clean cat-litter boxes? Food delivery services can handle grocery shopping. Maybe you have one close friend who can be your designated reporter to keep family in the know about how baby is doing?

If you have a friend who likes your dog, and who your dog thinks is great too, maybe you already know your dog walker. Discuss details with them to see if they’re ready to take on that role. Talk about where you walk with your dog, how long walks are, what time of the day, and any cues your dog knows such as “heel” or “wait” or “easy”. If you don’t have a trusted stand-in, interview dog walkers in the months leading up to your baby’s birth, and get your dog comfortable with them well in advance to help smooth that transition. A dog who’s used to two daily walks, but suddenly gets none, is a dog more likely to act out with barking, jumping, or other pushy behavior that’s inappropriate with a newborn in the house. One the other paw, a dog who’s still getting plenty of exercise with someone they know and trust is also a dog who will be more able to relax through the ups and downs of life with a new baby.

Another useful tactic is teaching your dog a “settle cue” so that they can enjoy quiet downtime, instead of expecting all interactions to be active. This will make them more comfortable through naps and other rest times. Teaching settle can be remarkably easy, though it does need to be practiced. Pick a mat or blanket that will be the cue for your dog to “settle” and ready a small bowl of yummy treats mixed with their meal of kibble. Put the mat down near where you will be comfortable sitting for a while. Take a seat and wait. When you dog investigates the mat, usually by going over to it and sniffing, tell them what a Good Dog they are and toss a few kibble and treats on the mat to help them begin to figure that that mat is a GOOD THING. If your dog does not investigate it on their own, toss a couple of kibbles onto the mat, followed by some treats when they are on the mat.

Pretty soon your dog will realize that being on the mat makes the treats happen. Then ask your dog for a “down”. When your dog starts heading over to their mat on their own, you put the “settle” on cue by adding a phase that means you as asking them to go to their mat. Some families use the word “settle”, or “mat”, or just “go lay down”. Keep randomly rewarding them when they are settled on their mat and they will be more and more likely just to chill out there. A stuffed Kong or other delectable chew will also motivate them to relax during these settle times.

There are many other useful cues that your dog can learn in advance of your baby’s arrival that will help make the transition easier and more harmonious, including a solid “wait” so your dog is not underfoot while you are coming through the door carrying your baby, “back-up” to ask your dog to move out of your way, and “quiet” to shush a bark. Consult with a trainer who works specifically with this transition time to enlist professional help.

The company Family Paws (www.familypaws.com) is a helpful online resource for parents with dogs!

Jen Walker has spent over a dozen years working in animal shelters, with strong emphases on humane education, community outreach, and companion animal behavior. She has a Certificate in Training and Counseling from the prestigious Academy for Dog Trainers and is a Certified Humane Education Specialist through the Humane Society for the United States. Jen is Education Coordinator with Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter, a Program Trainer with UnChained, and the owner/trainer of the dog training business First Friends.

 

 

 

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 January 2018 22:57
 
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