Years ago, my husband surprised me with two beautiful purebred Newfoundlands. They were my first fur babies, and this was a dream come true! Little did I know, two months later, another dream of mine would come true — I would find out that I was pregnant with our first child.
This put a lot on my plate with very little time to accomplish it. If you want to know how to prepare a dog for baby's big arrival and beyond, here are some real-life tips and tricks that I found extremely helpful.
How to Prepare a Dog for Baby: 9 Important Steps to Make Before Your Due Date
There are so many things to do before your baby arrives, but one big project to put at the top of your list is to get your pets ready for their new sibling! After all, they have been the baby until this point, and your focus is about to shift drastically. Here's how to get your dog ready for a baby and ensure that they are taken care of once your baby arrives.
1. Alter Sleeping Arrangements Early
For the dog parents who co-sleep with their pets, it's a good idea to move them out of your room as soon as possible. Whether you choose to have your baby sleep by your bedside in a bassinet or in the bed with you, having your pets in the bed with the baby nearby can become a big safety issue.
Since you want to make this an easy transition for your pet, it's best to make this change early. Decide whether you want them to move to another room, or if you want to start crating them at night. Mat training can be a great way to make this adjustment simple and even fun for your pet.
Since your bed has been their bed for a while, it's not surprising that some pets will wander back to their original slumber spot. A good way to handle this is to put up a pet gate in your bedroom doorway. This can also come in handy for the parents who plan to dock their tot on the bed during the day. The last thing you want is your pet jumping on the bed.
2. Rearrange Your House Now
Big changes in the home can stress our pets out. This means that it's important for parents-to-be to make changes slowly and early. Set up your nursery, assemble the playpen in the main room, and get your rocking chair and baby swing ready. Also, set up baby gates at the entrances of areas that you want to keep your pets out.
3. Introduce Them to Baby Sounds
Babies are loud, and toddlers are rambunctious. A big part of getting your pups ready for your little one's arrival is making sure that they're prepared for the sensory overload that is about to begin. Start by playing your baby's sound machine, running the baby food maker, and setting up your swing and turning it on.
You want your pets to explore all things baby and get their excitement out. That way, when your little one arrives, it's old news. Once they get used to these sounds and movements, you can start playing recordings of babies crying. This is important because while some dogs couldn't care less about a little commotion. Other dogs, like my girls, were quite startled when this little thing started screaming at the top of his lungs on and off throughout the day.
For the best success, find a soundtrack on YouTube that features an array of cries, not just one that plays on repeat. Then, start with the sound at a low setting. Once they seem unfazed by the noise, turn it up a few volume points. When this becomes unexciting, raise it again. Keep this up until you get to the highest volume on your phone.
4. Desensitize Them to Touch
Dog massage is a fantastic tool for helping your dogs become more comfortable being touched in odd places. This is extremely important for preventing nips and bites when your baby or toddler tugs in the wrong spot. It's also a great bonding activity for you and your dog, and it can make grooming visits a lot easier.
How to Use Dog Massage to Prep for Baby
When you engage in dog massage, start with areas that they like having touched, like their belly and back. Once they're comfortable, begin to slowly target spots that little kids are most likely to grab — their face, ears, legs, tummy, and tail.
As my girls got accustomed to being gently touched through massage, we began to work on the bigger potential problems: poking, tugging, and pulling. To accomplish this, grab a fanny pack or training pouch and fill it with high-value treats. Then, gently tug at different areas of your dog like their ears, jowls, and tail. Every time they don't react, they get a cookie.
The ASPCA notes, "the idea is to teach your dog that uncomfortable touching always predicts the delivery of goodies." Since I have giant dogs with mouths the size of Montana, we went as far as gently tugging at their mile long tongues that always seem to be hanging out of their mouths. This seems odd until you watch your toddler playfully engage with their dogs.
Aim to do these sessions daily so that your pup is ready when your little one comes.
While it's important to desensitize your dog to these types of interactions, it's also imperative that you intervene when your baby or toddler is climbing, jumping, or tugging at your pets. Dogs and cats are beings just like the rest of us. It's our role as a parent and a pet owner to teach our kids how to treat animals with kindness and respect.
5. Engage With Your Dog on the Floor
Your pup is used to you being upright. When face-to-face with a little human, dogs can have a tendency to get nervous or even aggressive. This can be easily remedied by getting on your hands and knees — or having your spouse get on their hands and knees when your belly gets to be too big — and engaging in unlikely ways with your pup.
This can include sneaking up behind them, crawling quickly towards them, and even stealing their toys out of their mouth. Just like with the tugging and poking, every time they react positively, give them a high-value treat. Positive reinforcement is an amazing tool for teaching your dog beneficial behaviors.
6. Sign Up for Training to Touch Up Their Behavior
While your dog may be great with sit and stay, jumping, counter surfing, and door dashing can become a much bigger problem after your baby is born. By working on these skills early, you can ensure that your stress levels are lower when certain situations arise.
Some of the Top Skills to Work On
- Leave it
- Drop it
- No jumping
Training takes at least six weeks, so call local trainers in your area to get signed up as soon as possible. Also, consider hiring a trainer to come to your home. They can help you assess your space and even find things to work on that you may have not considered.
7. Set Up Care for When the Big Day Comes
This is a big one, especially if your little one is due near a holiday. When you finally go into labor, you want to make sure that your pup has a safe place to stay and a way to get there. This means coordinating care for your pup early. If you don't have family in town, talk to kennel owners to find out their policies for reserving a room in these scenarios, and ask a friend or neighbor if they would be willing to transport your pup.
Additionally, one month before you're due, get a key made to your home and give it to whoever will be caring for your pup or transporting them to the boarding facility. Also, stock up on their dog food, medications, and any other supplies they'll need while you're gone.
Most importantly, make sure that your pup is up-to-date on their vaccinations. Many boarding facilities will not accept dogs who are not vaccinated for kennel cough.
8. Address Changes That Will Occur After Your Baby Arrives
Once your dog's behavior is in check, make sure that they'll continue to get the same level of attention once your baby arrives. However, you'll probably not have as much energy or time. Therefore, consider signing your pup up for doggie daycare, setting up a regular walker with companies like Rover, or getting a subscription of dog toys to help keep them entertained when you don't have the time.
This can be beneficial for the parents of high-energy pets who need that daily walk, or run, every single day. Since these tasks require some time and research, make sure to get these checklist items coordinated well before your due date.
Interactive dog toys and feeders like snuffle mats and KONGs filled with treats can also serve as a great source of entertainment and stimulation for your pets when you're preoccupied with your baby.
9. Prioritize Your Pet's Care With Convenient Solutions
Now that you know how to get your dog ready for a baby, you need to get yourself ready for the task of juggling your bundle of joy and your pets. The easiest way to do this is to sign up for auto-deliveries of your pet's foods, medications, and toys.
If your pet requires grooming, also consider looking into mobile groomers who can come to you. I also recommend talking to your vet about curbside wellness checks. This can save you a lot of headache in the long-run, especially when you find that you have no help, and an emergency arises.
Things to Remember Once Your Baby Arrives
When it's time to bring your baby home, there are three main things to remember. First, when introducing your pet to your baby, do it in a quiet environment once your pet has had the chance to excitedly greet you and calm down. When you do this, also ensure that your spouse or another person is there to pull your pup back if they get too eager to greet their new little brother or sister. Conversely, if they seem unexcited about the encounter, don't force it. Just try again later.
Second, while you will be tired and distracted, make a point to have your pet join you for feedings. During these periods, pet them, talk to them, and love on them. You want them to associate the baby with positive feelings. If you only engage with your pet when the baby is asleep, jealousy may rear its ugly head.
Finally, no matter how much you prepare your dog for a baby, remember that you still always need to supervise your pets around your little one to ensure their safety. You may have the most well-behaved dog in the world, but if they get startled or agitated, it can lead to a dangerous situation for your little one.