Our dog was our first “baby.” We got him the year after we were married and he was our entire world. Then…kids came along. Poor Myo got ousted to the bottom of the totem pole. Luckily, we had a wonderful dog trainer who gave us amazing insight. She helped us to prepare our beloved pet for what was to come. I credit his amazing behavior with both of our children (and countless others) to this preparation. Here are a few of the things we did to help Myo ready himself for the new arrival.
- Carry a baby. It felt really silly, but I began to carry around a doll wrapped in a blanket around the house every once in a while. Myo was curious. I would ask him to sit and I would bring the baby to him. This helped him learn that he needed “permission” to approach the baby.
- Practice walking with a stroller. I definitely looked like a crazy lady walking around with a stroller and no baby, but I am sure glad I did it! Myo is over 80 lbs. Managing walking him and navigating a stroller took getting used to for both of us. By the time our first baby came, however, we both knew what to do.
- Listen to crying. We all know that dogs hearing is super sensitive. So imagine what the screams and howls of a baby sound like to them? I downloaded an MP3 file of a baby wailing. It actually didn’t seem to phase Myo too much. My husband and I, however, could only take a few minutes before we were both yelling for it to stop!
- If there are food possessiveness issues – work on them. We had trained Myo from a puppy to allow us to be near him while he was eating. We would often put our hands in his food bowl while he was eating or take his food away mid-meal. We still taught both of our kids to not “bother” Myo when he is eating, but knowing that he did not have any issues with food possessiveness was important to us.
- If you do not want the dog to go in the baby’s room, make it “out of bounds”. We didn’t have an issue with Myo going into the baby’s room, but some people don’t care for this. If you don’t want your pooch going into the nursery, be sure to establish this before the baby arrives so as not to have him/her associating the baby’s arrival with banishment from certain areas.
- When the baby is born, bring something home for your dog to smell. When both our kids were born, I sent my husband home early with a blanket or something that had the baby’s scent on it. We let Myo sniff this item so he could become familiar with the baby’s smell.
- Introduce baby and doggy outside of your home. Neutral territory is important when introducing your dog to new family/pack members. When we brought our babies home, we brought Myo outside to meet the baby for the first time.
- Allow for curiosity. Be positive but firm. If you are nervous that your dog might harm your baby, he will sense it. You must remain a leader to your dog. Stay firm and positive. Reward good behavior around the baby and correct poor behavior firmly and fairly.
Having a new baby is a huge change to anyone’s life. If you have a family dog, you owe it to yourself and them to ensure that the transition into a life with a new little person around is as smooth as possible. We have one of the most placid, well behaved dogs around children. I am so happy we took the time to ensure Myo was ready for what was in store!!