Posted 4 months ago
You’re bound to be full of excitement, anticipation and maybe a few nerves when you’re expecting a baby, children will completely transform your life, for the better.
But being pawrents to our furbabies, we also need to consider how our dogs will react to the new arrival - it can be quite an upheaval for them too.
And while we have nine months to get used to the idea, our dogs will also need some time to adapt. We can’t just spring a baby on them and hope for the best - it takes a lot of planning.
A baby requires a massive amount of preparation, and you’ll probably still not feel like you’re ready when the actual time comes.
But if you’re a dog owner as well as an expectant parent, getting your dog ready for the new addition is something else you’ll need to consider.
To find out how we can ensure our dogs don’t feel pushed out when bringing a new baby home, we spoke to nutrition and behaviour expert Anna Webb for her advice.
Anna said: “Introducing a baby into the home requires planning. And there’s normally nine months in which to do this.
“Training your dog well in advance to interact calmly with children is key. To have them desensitised to children’s sights, sounds and smells.”
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And she had some tips on how you can do this.
Anna added: “Walking past playgrounds and positively reinforcing the dog for calm behaviour.
“Practice training your dog to walk nicely besides a pram before the baby arrives. Your dog will know you’re pregnant through his extraordinary sense of smell, so involve him in the experience.
“Invest in dog gates to allow separation from the baby’s room, and train your dog that that’s a no-go zone.
“Involve your dog in some purchases for the baby by rewarding him for simply sniffing some items. If there’s a chance to bring some ‘nappies’ for your dog to recognise another scent before coming home, so much the better.”
With the baby becoming your priority, this could be hard for a dog to accept - they’re used to having all of your attention. But Anna stressed the importance of routine.
She said: “It’s important to keep your dog’s routine the same when the baby arrives home, with his routine walks, playtime, training and attention.”
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While those first few weeks will be tiring, even more so if you have a dog, it can be hugely rewarding for children to grow up with dogs.
“Having grown up with dogs from as young as I can remember, I know how amazing the bond can be between dogs and children. Both provide company for one another,” said Anna.
“Dogs can help build children’s confidence as dogs are not judgmental.”
She added: “So dogs in the home are like teachers, helping us adapt and develop communication skills, build patience and compassion. Plus, dogs teach children responsibility, care, loyalty, and much more.”
But children don’t always know how to behave calmly, and while it could leave parents tearing their hair out, dogs can also find this kind of behaviour hard to handle.
Anna advised: “It’s important for parents to understand how to read their dog and interpret what their body language is saying, whether they’re happy, excited, relaxed, afraid, or stressed, and to adapt the situation accordingly.
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“Dogs can find tantrums and high energy confusing, so encourage a child’s calm behaviour, or understand that a dog might want to remove themselves from a situation that’s stressful, confusing, or just overwhelming.”
And with an increase in those getting a dog through the pandemic, Anna advised how important those basic life skills are when owning a dog.
She said: “Never crowd a dog, no over-petting, let sleeping dogs lie and that dogs should be invited to approach children, and why it’s always important to ask if it's OK to stroke a strange dog.”