Getting ready for a new baby but not sure if your dog is ready too? Here are some tips to help you tell your dog you are pregnant and get them used to a new environment in your household:
1. Set the ground rules
I am sure you love to snuggle with your four-legged baby on top of the couch! But, where is he going to fit once your baby is in the middle of things? You might have to change this habit to keep your pup on the floor from now on. Everyone makes changes for baby.
What about barking or jumping? You might not want them to bark at the ups guy when your baby is sleeping. Teach him silence by rewarding calm behaviors. When somebody knocks on the door say “shh” or “silence” if he stops give him a reward and then start praising after a few seconds. The more you work on it the better they will get and you can add more and more distractions and time. If he doesn’t stop even for one second reduce the stimulation and knock on the door yourself from inside, wait for him to stop and reward him. After a few sessions ask your neighbor or housemate to knock on the door from outside and so on. Do a few 5 minute sessions a day and have treats by the door to be ready for it. When your dog is doing well, start fading away from the treats. If he gets too excited and doesn’t want to take your treats or praise then try cheese or chicken. It’s important to know what your dog likes in order to train him properly. Ignore him when he barks, remembering that attention is a type of reward. I have clients who definitely don’t have the time to train for this so we use bark collars with a low level stimulation, citronella or vibration collars during the day and when they around and their dog doesn’t bark they reinforce it. It is important to be consistent in our rules to ensure it will be clear enough for our pups so keep the momentum going.
To stop him from jumping teach him to sit using food and then, once your dog knows what you expect of him, fade away from the treats slowly. If you have a big dog you can put your knee up to stop him and then ask him to sit or lay down. If you have a puppy you can pull him down from the scruff like the mom does, ask him to sit and then praise after a few seconds. Dogs are not verbal and communicate by touch. Your “no” doesn’t mean anything unless you pair it with pressure. Your “good boy” doesn’t mean anything unless you pair it with treats or attention. They learn by positive and negative reinforcement and need this to know what you want from them and we definitely owe this to our faithful pups!
With every command you have to start small by using little distractions. Be persistent and wait for your dog to know what you expect him to do before changing positions, environments or adding more people to your training sessions. Try to not correct and treat at the same, this confuses them.
We need to keep a consistent yes or no to be honest with our pup and help him be stable.
When we keep the same rules and we reinforce them over and over we give our dogs a sense of security. Make sure you start this training months before your baby comes to avoid destructive behaviors by the sudden lack of attention. Believe me, you will appreciate these rules when you don’t have time and you have to lock your pup in the basement or worst have him neglected for long periods of time. It is just not fair!
2. Tell your dog you are pregnant by introducing baby sounds, baby routine and baby objects.
If your dog has the baby routine before baby actually arrives it will be easy for him to adjust. Set up a schedule you can follow up even when your baby is born and keep it the same. Ask for help when the baby is born so your pup can have a regular walking routine.
Dogs need physical and mental exercise everyday. If you walk your pup 2 times a day keep doing that but add some training while you are doing it so he gets more tired and you can practice good manners. I recommend starting it yourself and then asking someone to help you. This will save you a lot of time in the long run and will pay back with a good furry friend that listens to instructions. Dogs get more tired when they train. My dogs train 15 minute sessions 3-5 times a day and they are pooped at the end of the day. Make sure you take treats with you that your dog will take and love more than the walk itself. Work on “look at me”, “sit”, “down”, “stays” and walking with the stroller next to you. At the beginning it is going to be a lot of luring and then you can wait for the dog to perform the action to reward him. Teaching dog “stays” works as yoga or meditation for us. It teaches your dog to control his anxiety and gets his brain going. No wonder why obedient dogs are so stable and steady.
Go to your baby’s room and tell your dog to go to his place and give him a bone to chew on or snuggle with him in the floor.
Keep treat jars all over the house and encourage your dog when he smells baby crib. Baby toys should have a scent that characterizes it, like essential oil or a strong smell dog doesn’t like. Make sure to use dog safe oils. Redirect your dog when eating baby’s toys. They look very similar so it’s easy for your dog to get confused.
For introduction to sounds. You can download the playlist in this link : https://open.spotify.com/album/4naP9gpt0Y4TdBR59zLXW0?si=AUY4rlu-SHOz64w5uxgrWA or play babies crying, laughing, baby toys and so on.
- Do something fun while playing sounds. Play all the tracks in real life volume, don’t distract just observe. If your dog doesn’t respond to it go to step 4. If your dog reacts go to step two.
- Now play them individually with low volume doing something fun like tugging patting or grooming or meal time. Pick your dog’s favorite. Play your tracks regularly while doing something fun during the day.
- Start increasing volume slowly until it sounds loud. Remember baby’s sounds can be as loud as ambulance. Play day and night.
- Start playing them in different places around the house where your baby will be. Then, play them in different rooms and go away. Add a fake baby.
- Add a fake baby to the equation. If it’s too much go back to the last step until your dog seems conformable.
(Steps from the book: “Tell your dog you are pregnant” by Lewis Kirkham)
3. Tell your dog your baby is a member of the pack
Have a walker or a family member walk your dog a few minutes before baby arrives. Tell the helper to show your dog a blanket or piece of cloth that smells like the baby and reward him repeatedly. Walk in first with baby stuff and let your dog get excited and say hello to you. He might be anxious and happy to see his mom after a few days away. Then, bring the baby somewhere higher to the ground and let him smell his new human. If he jumps or starts to get invasive pull him away by the collar and ask him to sit or down. Have treats nearby to reward him for good behaviors.
During the introductory week keep the same schedule you did before inviting your pup to do baby activities by laying down next to you or hanging out. Ignore attention-seeking behaviors. Reward and give pets and love while your dog sticks closer to the ground or smells the baby gently. Remember you decide how far you are going to let him go. Don’t look at him or talk when he is being intrusive.
Keep working on this for a few weeks. Make sure you don’t change your dog schedule abruptly and enjoy this new season.
Blessings to all the new moms and dads to be!