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Are you preparing to bring a baby home to your dog?

02/03/2023 - Babies, Children and Dogs

If you are bringing a new baby home this is a must read article to help with a few ideas to get you started

For dog owners who are about to expand their human family, how their dog will cope with the new arrival can be a great source of stress. Babies are a lot for us adult humans to adjust to – managing our dog while caring for a newborn can sound like an impossible challenge. We’re here to help! There are many things you can work on training your dog to do right now, to prepare them and make the transition so much easier for everyone – human and canine. Here are our top recommendations:

Place is a simple exercise that asks our dogs to go and park themselves on a target on the floor. That target could be the dog bed, door mat, a blanket or anything else our dogs can comfortably sit or lie on that distinguishes the area from the surrounding floor. This is an invaluable tool to have when baby arrives, so we can ask the dog to move out of the way and pop themselves in a safe spot. This will keep pup’s paws on the floor and keep them from tripping us up or trying to “help!”

Paws on the Floor
Working on teaching our dogs to keep their paws on the floor in different every day scenarios, such as when people enter the house, approach them, or around things like kitchen counters, high chairs and changing tables is something we can start working on now, before we have the added distraction and excitement of a baby involved! 

Impulse Control
Impulse control is all about our dogs managing themselves, particularly when they are excited or want to engage with something in the environment. It is a hugely beneficial skill for us to teach our dogs, as it means we don’t need to micromanage them – rather than constantly telling them no, off, wait, leave, etc our dogs instead start to make good choices themselves and offer the behaviour we’re looking for. This is all about our dogs being manageable and pleasant to be around, even when something exciting happens – a new baby comes with a wide variety of new sounds, sights and smells and these are bound to be a huge distraction for any dog! Building this skill before baby arrives will go a long way to harmonious living!

Desensitisation to Noises
Babies bring with them a variety of new noises – whether it is the baby themselves or toys and other equipment that new parents need, they are likely to be strange and startling to our dogs. Start introducing these things gradually to your dog well before the baby arrives, so that many of them are familiar and do not worry your dog. Having a dog who is barking and getting upset at things when looking after a baby is a stressful experience, so this is a great way to mitigate that. It’s also important to remember that dogs can become trigger stacked – just like us when we have a bad day, if a series of slightly stressful things happen our dogs can become more sensitive and more likely to react to the next seemingly-minor thing. A new baby arriving is a perfect example of a time when humans and dogs can easily become trigger stacked, so making many of these baby-specific things normal and familiar to our dogs can be a huge help in avoiding this.

Absence Training
Even if your dog doesn’t suffer with separation anxiety, many dogs like to follow us around the house and spend a lot of time with us. It’s likely you will be spending some more time away from your dog, at least in the early stages, to tend to your new arrival. You also may not want your dog to follow you into certain places that they’ve previously been allowed. Starting to work carefully on absence training with your dog, to ensure they are able to be left in another part of the house for a little longer – particularly when they can hear you and the baby making noise – will help make the transition as stress-free as possible. 

Practice Verbal and One-Handed Cues
New parents are often carrying something around – whether it is the baby, a load of laundry, or any other plethora of baby-related things! This can make it difficult to give the same visual cues that our dogs are used to when we need to ask them to back up, sit, go to their bed or whatever else we might want to communicate to them. It can also be surprising what our dogs are responding to – we may think they are reacting to our verbal cue, but dogs are very body-language oriented and may actually be responding to some visual cue we didn’t even realise we were giving. Try carrying things around and cuing your dog with just your voice, and see what happens – if you find they aren’t as responsive to your verbal cues as you thought, this is something well worth practicing!

Practice Behaviours with You on the Floor
Things like place, stay and down can quickly fall apart when we crouch down or sit on the floor! New parents often spend time sitting on the floor with their little one, so ensuring your dog can do this when you are on the floor at their level is a great skill to work on. One you add a baby and any activities into the mix, it will get even harder – so start working on your dog staying in position when you sit down calmly, and try to add in strange movements, noises and items so that your dog is as prepared as possible for when there is a baby around, too!

Get Them Used to Boundaries
Suddenly popping a baby gate up between rooms or the staircase may confuse and frustrate your dog if they are used to being able to wander freely through these spaces. Though you have some time before baby is up and moving around, it’s still worth introducing these boundaries first – they can be useful in managing whether the dog goes if there are spaces you don’t want them to have free access to any more, and it’s also much easier to work on this with your pup before you have a baby on the move to worry about, too!
For tutorials and in-depth walk throughs of all of these skills, check out our online training portal, Dogversity! With over 250 professional training videos, our founder and behaviourist Zoe Willingham can walk you through all the steps to preparing your dog for your exciting new addition to the family! You can find more details and become a VIP member, here: https://www.bestbehaviourdogtraining.co.uk/dogversity-online

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