When you’ve got a new baby coming, you’ve got so much on your mind. Even if this isn’t your first little one, or second, or even third, you’ve got a list a mile long to get done before your bundle of joy makes the scene. That’s completely normal, but one thing that causes new parents a lot of unnecessary stress is not knowing what to do with their dogs when the new baby arrives. They are afraid that their dog is going to feel jealous of the new baby, or left out, and sad that they aren’t getting as much attention as they used to.
Firstly, I have good news for you. Your dog isn’t going to feel jealous or left out. While he may be initially upset at the changes in his routine and schedule, we often attribute emotions to dogs that they just simply don’t feel. While it may seem that your dog becomes more clingy or has a great deal more energy than he used to during play sessions, it’s not that he’s jealous of your time. It’s more likely that he’s seeking reassurance and leadership as his comfortable world changes a little bit. However, there are a few things that we can do to ease our pup’s transition into your growing family.
Get Your Dog Plenty of Exercise
This is the one that is overlooked the most, in my training experience. Particularly when things are changing in a dog owner’s life (and let’s face it, having a baby is just about the biggest change that you can make), exercise for your dog hits the back burner while you get things figured out. While it makes sense for you in the moment, you’ll find that all of that pent up energy has to go somewhere, and your dog won’t be able to contain it for long.
Going for daily walks with your baby in a stroller or backpack, having time outside with another dog (if you don’t have more than one dog yourself, maybe try to set up some sort of doggy play date?), playing ten minutes of tug o war or fetch with a favorite toy. These are all great options for getting your dog some exercise each day. If you are just completely overwhelmed and unable to do it yourself, it’s worth it to check into local dog walkers or a daycare that your pup can go to a few times a week to release some of that energy.
Stimulate Your Dog’s Mind
Along with exercise, keeping your dog’s brain busy is a big help in keeping them happy, even as big changes are happening. Dedicating 3-5 minutes to training a few times a day will do wonders for your dog’s attitude (I like to use meal times to go over behaviors that have already been learned, and to take a few minutes to teach something new). If you’ve done some work ahead of time, your dog should already have several behaviors to choose from under his belt, such as sit/down, leave it, wait, and touch. Getting to engage in training sessions with you during the day will help give your pup something to think about and improve at, even while you’re busy getting the next bottle ready.
When your dog isn’t exercising or doing mini training sessions with you, giving them something to work on independently can help a lot! Giving raw marrow bones is a favorite thing to do at my house (cheap, easy, and it cleans their teeth as well!), but there are many different puzzles and treat dispensers that you can use to keep your dog’s brain engaged and busy as you take care of your baby throughout the day.
Provide Leadership for Your Dog
I think that one of the biggest mistakes that we can make as dog owners and parents is to sort of let the dog do what he pleases while we are distracted with our human babies. Most dogs crave leadership from their people, and many will act out if they don’t get it. Few things make your average pet dog more uncomfortable than suddenly having the keys to the city handed to them, but not being told where they are allowed to go, or what they can do. Because of that, it’s a good idea to continue to provide calm, confident leadership to your dog, even in this time of transition.
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If you haven’t already, implement “Nothing in Life is Free,” a simple way of living in which you ask the dog to do a behavior for you before he is allowed to do the things he wants. Maintain your expectations for the dog (not allowing jumping and barking, or expecting him to wait as you go through the door first), even though things have changed. Providing clear leadership for your dog will give him something to follow, and allow him to relax instead of worry about having to lead himself!
Allow Your Dog Some Space
Having a new baby at home can definitely be stressful for your dog, especially if he is expected to interact with your new addition at all times during the day! Setting up a Safe Space for your dog will allow him to take breaks as he needs them, and give him an escape from the pressures of having a new baby in the house!
Remember, every dog is different, and so you may have to experiment a little bit to find the exact combination of things to help your dog be completely happy with these big life changes. You know your dog better than anyone, and it’s our job as their owners to help them through these challenges! If things don’t seem to be working quite right, don’t be afraid to try something new to help your pal settle back in again!