Bringing a new baby home is an exciting, stressful, chaotic, and joyful time in a person’s life. It’s a big event that often requires new parents to make lifestyle changes in order to accommodate the needs of their new bundle of joy. That being said, people aren’t the only ones affected by this type of major life change. Our four-legged furbabies must also adapt to the arrival of their two-legged siblings, and this is often easier said than done.
Most dogs adore their new human pack-mates. After all, there really is nothing better in the eyes of a dog than a baby that will grow up to become a toddler and routinely throws cheerios and other food items on the floor! However, in the initial stages of introducing a new baby, your dog might also feel:
This is where the importance of training and preparing your dog before the arrival of a new baby is so important. If you, a friend, or a family member is expecting a baby anytime soon, I encourage you to keep reading to discover my top 5 exercises for preparing dogs for the arrival of a new baby.
The first exercise is all about setting boundaries and controlling space in the house. It will be much easier on your dog if he knows that he doesn’t “own” the house before a new baby arrives. When he knows his boundaries, you’ll have a much easier time keeping him out of the baby’s room, off the couch, etc.
This exercise is as simple as starting to put limits on where your dog is allowed to go. For example, you might want to start by keeping your dog out of your bedroom. To implement this rule, it’s as easy as keeping your door closed or setting up a gate. If you catch your dog where he’s not supposed to be, tell him, “Hey, get out of there” (in a loving sort of way!). Over time, your dog will learn where he is and is not allowed to be.
It is very important to establish table manners with your pup—especially if you’re expecting a baby. The reason: As your baby gets older, you certainly don’t want the dog hovering around the baby chair or trying to grab food off the baby’s high chair. This is all fun to begin with, but after a while, it can become tiring, and eventually, it becomes a real pain having a begging dog at every meal. Plus, your toddler soon realizes that any scraps can be simply dropped “over the side”!
In order to teach your dog table manners, I suggest using mat commands. This is very simple to do. You can teach mat commands by rewarding a dog with a treat when he stays on his mat during mealtime. If your dog needs a little bit of extra help, you can use a leash to tie him where you want him seated during mealtimes. This leash is just a temporary training tool and will not be required for long.
After the mealtime is over, once again, you can reward your dog. Eventually, he will understand that he needs to sit on his mat while you are eating. Having this training in place will help you avoid the dangers of having a dog hovering over a small a child who has food.
As your baby gets older, you’ll most likely lay him or her on a blanket to play with toys and stretch out. When you’re at this stage, the last thing you want is your baby lying on the floor and the dog coming and plunking himself right next to (or on top of) the baby. Certainly, most dogs have no intentions of hurting a baby by sitting next to him or her. However, even small dogs can be quite large compared to an infant, and there’s always the possibility that an accident—like suffocation or an injury like a claw scratch —might occur.
For the safety of your child, I suggest you train your dogs to stay off the blankets on the floor—and do so before your baby even arrives. The training process is very easy. All you have to do is place a blanket on the ground and say, “Off, off, off!” if the dog steps on the blanket. The beautiful thing about starting this training early is that you don’t have to be stressed once the baby arrives. There’s no danger because you haven’t gotten the baby yet. So, your dog learns that when the blanket is put on the floor, he’s not allowed to be on it.
The best part is that this training exercise can be fun for your dog. That’s right—you can turn it into a game! For instance, you can reward your dog with treats when you say, “Hey, stay off the blanket.” Then you can praise your dog with “Good dog!” and a treat when he listens. Eventually your dog will think, “Wow, aren’t I good at this game?” and it becomes enjoyable. Most important, both your dog and baby will stay safe once this command is in place.
One thing you’ll probably be looking forward to after your little one arrives is going for a walk as a family. Of course, you don’t want to leave your furbaby behind, so you’ve got to learn how to walk your dog in tandem with pushing a stroller. It might sound funny, but this is something that can be practiced long before your baby arrives. That’s right. It sounds a bit odd to be pushing around an empty stroller, but the practice actually will make things safer for your dog and your new baby. After all, the last thing you want is a 75‑pound dog yanking you sideways to smell the bushes while you’re trying to push the stroller.
In order to do this exercise, all you need to do is teach your dog to walk nicely behind your stroller. Take your stroller out each day that you do a walk. Allow your dog to get used to the stroller. And reward your dog for walking calmly behind the stroller as you do your walk. Eventually, your dog will catch on and will understand the rules of walking with a stroller. Most dogs learn to walk beautifully with a stroller. But, that being said, I want to remind you to never tie your dog’s leash or connect it to the stroller in any way. Even the world’s most behaved dog can get excited or distracted, and this can put your new baby in big danger.
Last but not least, something you really want to think about is training your dog to respect personal space. If you have a dog that’s jumping all over you, then that is something you really want to consider stopping. The last thing you want is your dog jumping in your face trying to get attention while you’re holding your baby. It’s also not ideal to have a dog that feels entitled to be in your lap or on top of you while you’re trying to feed or put a baby to sleep.
Out of all the personal space issues, jumping is the most serious. So serious, in fact, that I do have a program I’ve created called The Online Dog Trainer that can help sort this issue out. In the meantime, I can give you the band-aid solution.
The temporary solution is to turn your back on your dog or move him off very calmly when he jumps. If your dog continues to do this, then calmly take your dog and pop him into timeout for a minute or two. This is a very powerful approach.
However, there is a lot more to it, and if you’re expecting a baby, I strongly urge you to check out The Online Dog Trainer for long-lasting solutions. In fact, there are many training techniques in The Dog Calming Code that will help at every stage as you introduce your new family member into your home. I know the program will work for you. Why? Easy. Because the program is designed to teach dogs to listen to you when it really matters rather than on their own agenda.
I wish you the best as you welcome your new bundle of joy into your home.
And if you are still reading this or if you jumped to the very bottom to grab your free gift, here it is… It’s the first 5 Chapters of my book called “What the Dogs Taught Me About Being a Parent”, published by Random House in 2013 and selling on Amazon…
It’s been a huge success, and I know you’ll enjoy it. I even know of people without dogs or kids who have loved it!!!