If you’re like me, your dog was probably your first baby. And introducing a new family member to the household includes them just as much it does my husband and I. We were lucky enough to be able to find a baby class at the hospital that gave us some parenting and dog training tips for both our “fur baby” as well as our “real baby.” They have been helping us ever since and I want to share them with you.
The most important thing I want to stress is that, just as this is a two-part blog, training is a two-way street. It’s not just about how you are going to get your dog to cope with a new baby at home, but also about how you are going to teach your child to respect animals and pets as a family member. Your whole family is learning about a mutual respect that needs to happen in the household, and it's not just about dominating over your animals.
Just as mom can have symptoms of postpartum depression, so can your dog. And depression in dogs isn’t so different from depression in people. I know this might seem like an extreme correlation but it is very common for pets to be affected by a change in routine, and a new baby at home is definitely one of the biggest changes they will experience. Some symptoms you may notice:
- Low activity
- Change in appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Lack of energy
When we brought home our new baby, it was fairly easy for us to spot the doggy depression going on. Our dog is very outgoing and loves to be pet and sit close on the couch. But once the baby was around, she tended to spend a lot more time lying in her dog bed watching us out of the corner of her eye. She also had diarrhea and wasn’t eating as well as usual.
Everyone Needs a Little Me Time
Most dogs bounce back from depression within a few days to a few months with just a little extra TLC. Just as it is when you have multiple children, everyone wants some mommy and daddy one-on-one time. So try and make a point to find at least one activity you can do every day that is designated just for your dog, and make sure to give them your full attention.
- Take them on a walk while your partner watches the baby
- Treats! Pet them and give them rewards for being a good dog
- Take your dog to the park to play frisbee for a change of scenery
TIP: One thing that really helped our dog was to stop taking the baby stroller on walks. Even though I was home on maternity leave, my husband made sure to continue our morning and evening walk routine so that our dog could be alone with him on their walks. It might seem like a good idea to multi-task, but maneuvering a baby stroller resulted in a much slower and shorter walk. By eliminating the chaos our dog was able to get a quality walk and the much needed exercise to get her through the day.
Quiet Time For All
Another dog training tip that we learned was that we needed to teach our dog to find her “safe place” during stressful times. We started this about three months before the baby was born, and it involved designating a few “safe” resting places around the house. For us this was: the dog bed in the living room, the dog bed in the bedroom and the baby gated area in the kitchen.
TIP: Pick an area to baby gate off for your dog that allows them to still be able to see you. That way they still feel a part of the activity, but they don’t have to be right in the middle of it.
The idea with these safe spots, is that when things get a little hectic (ie. a guest is visiting, or the baby is crawling on the floor) you tell the dog to go to their safe spot and they should sit or stay there. You will want to make sure you reward your dog for finding their safe spot and then continue to give them treats periodically while they stay in their spot and not whine or bark.
Who cares if she temporarily puts on a few extra pounds if we’re creating a safe and happy environment for our expanding family!
TIP: We had a few Kongs, so we’d fill them with peanut butter ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator so they were easy to grab. We also purchased small training treats and stashed bags throughout the house so they were easy to grab if we needed in a pinch.
As working parents, you have a lot going on and the never ending list of preparing to bring home a new baby seems overwhelming. But as with all things, when you plan ahead it makes things easier for you in the long run. And if you have pets, you know that training takes time and there is no real way to rush it. So start when you can, and that’s better than nothing!
In the second part of this blog, I will focus on helpful tips that you can teach your child as they grow up with your dog. Just as your child will go through learning phases, so will the lessons that you will need to teach them about respecting and interacting with dogs. Did you know that the odds that a dog bite victim will be a child are 3.2 to 1? There are many common sense tips that you can teach your child to prevent a bite from ever happening. Stay tuned!