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Postpartum Doula, Michelle Wagner shares a little advice on preparing your dog for the new baby.
Our dogs become an important member of our family.  So what happens when you become pregnant and a new member joins the family?  Any number of things can occur if your dog is unprepared for the change.

YOUR DOG COULD BEGIN ACTING OUT BECAUSE HIS NORMAL ROUTINE IS OUT OF WHACK, BECOME OVERPROTECTIVE OF BABY, OR WITHDRAW AND BECOME DEPRESSED BECAUSE HE IS GETTING LESS ATTENTION THAN HE IS USED TO.

So what can you do to prepare your dog to welcome the new addition to the family?
You will want to create a plan and ideally you will want to start well before baby is born. This allows you to work with your dog making sure he understands the changes that are about to happen; and navigate any setbacks that may come up along the way.  The two goals to focus on for a successful transition are: teaching your dog how to interact safely with baby and supporting your dog through the new experiences and changes to come.
  1. Look into getting your dog some formal training. Developing basic obedience will help you to manage your dog’s behavior better once baby arrives. This will also establish that you are his boss and not the other way around. There are a variety of choices here in Calgary for obedience training and you should be able to find one that suits you and your dog.
  2. Your dog’s routine will change once baby arrives, and dogs just like babies enjoy and feel safe with a routine. If you can, begin to plan what that new routine might look like when baby arrives. If you normally take your dog for a walk in the mornings, gradually start to change the time of his walks so that it is less predictable; as once baby arrives those morning walks may not be as easy to accomplish. Another option would be to hire a dog walker for the first few weeks when baby arrives; this may help you determine what your routine will look like and then adjust from there.
  3. Determine whether or not you want the baby room to be off limits. If you choose to make it off limits, teach your dog to sit or lay down just outside the bedroom door. When you are not in the room place a tall baby gate in the door way or keep the door closed to let him know this room is off limits. If you decide to allow your dog to enter the baby’s room, place a doggy bed in a spot in the room. You could use doggy treats or a special toy to give him when he stays quietly in his doggy bed. When baby comes and you are nursing you can toss him a treat every now and then to reward him for being quiet and staying in his doggy bed.
  4. Begin to unpack baby toys, set up the crib, stroller and car seat; it is recommended to introduce these items 2 at a time.  This way your dog can begin to familiarize with these items and start to understand that changes are happening. It is also suggested to leave a baby toy or two on the ground for your dog to smell, if he grabs it quickly take it away and redirect him to his chew toys.
  5. A helpful tip from Cesar Milan of Cesars Way is ‘claim your baby’s scent’. Once baby is born your partner can take home an item of the baby’s such as a burp cloth or a onesie. Then have the dog smell from a distance while you are holding the item, establishing that the dog requires permission to smell and be close to this item. In turn teaching the dog to also have respect for the baby.
There are a lot of things to consider when bringing baby home to meet your family dog. There are plenty of helpful websites outlining in more detail on how to plan for a successful introduction and how to create a safe environment for baby and your dog. We encourage you to seek the advice of a local trainer. Remember your dog will likely already sense that changes are happening; after all. they are part of the family.
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