Preparing for a new baby is a lot. I feel you, mama. I’m right there with you right now. It seems like there is just so much to do, and not nearly enough time to get it all done. I know that I’m a terrible procrastinator, myself, so I put off most of my preparations until suddenly there seems to be no time at all left. I hope you’re not like me, though! I hope you’re the type of mom-to-be who has prepared a list of to-dos ahead of time to help you get ready for the big changes ahead of you. Which brings us to the point of this article.
Training your dog absolutely needs to be on the list of things to do before your baby arrives. My goal at My Baby’s Best Friend is to help families to prepare their dogs for the big changes that a baby brings, so that you avoid chaos and stress. Having a dog that respects you and your family’s limits, responds quickly and reliably to commands, and has great self-control definitely contributes to the peace and harmony in your home. Having a new baby come home soon, you’ll need as much help with peace and harmony as you can get. Here are three great reasons why dog training needs a place on your checklist, along with painting your nursery and taking your vitamins.
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1. Now is the best time to establish leadership.
I’ve been a dog trainer for a very long time now. I’ve learned a lot of different techniques and theories along the way regarding the best type of relationship to establish with your dog. I don’t subscribe to the “Alpha” theory, but I do believe that the best way to have a harmonious relationship with your dog is to have one based on mutual respect. Your dog should respect that you set the limits in your home, and that you know what you’re talking about in new and stressful situations. You should respect that your dog is smart enough to learn new things, and that they are living and conscious creatures that sometimes make their own decisions (however misguided they can be).
Establishing leadership is something that’s fairly easy to do with your dog, but it does take a bit of time and consistency. Leading Your Dog is a mini-course that I put together to walk you through what’s involved in getting that relationship that we all crave. It includes some training theory on how leadership and healthy relationships with your pup work, and several simple exercises for you to try out that can make it happen quickly!
Once you’ve established your relationship with your dog, that makes things so much easier when your little one arrives at home and you start to put limits into place about appropriate baby/dog interactions. If you have a dog that is used to following your lead and respecting your boundaries, that part of training is going to be a breeze. However if you have left things to the last minute, you’re going to be dealing with new parent worries AND an unruly dog who is doing his best to buck your authority!
Want to learn more about preparing your pup for your new baby? Click here to get instant access to our article, “7 Great Ways to Prepare Your Dog for Baby!”
2. Now is the best time to teach needed behaviors.
There are plenty of dogs out there that live happily with their families and have absolutely no manners training at all. However, how nice would it be to be able to walk your dog with you when you take your baby out in his stroller? How about a dog that doesn’t dive for your baby’s pacifier when it falls out of the chair? A dog that gets off the couch when you tell him, and sits patiently at the door when you try to maneuver through with a car seat, a diaper bag, and your purse?
These behaviors are taught, not instinctive, and the time before your baby arrives is the time to get this training done! You absolutely want it to be in place and reliable before your baby makes the scene, so that you can use these commands in real life. Otherwise, you may be struggling to manage both a newborn, and an unruly or disobedient pup at the same time, and that’s a LOT of work! At the very least, teaching your dog impulse control with Leave It games, walking nicely on the leash, and how to settle down even in the face of distraction are game changers.
3. You have much more energy to devote to your dog
As the mother of one, soon to be two, little ones, I can personally attest to this. Once your new baby arrives, the amount of time and energy that you have available to fix your dog’s behavior so that you can live peacefully with your growing family is going to be limited. Much more limited. You’re likely going to be frazzled and exhausted, at least for awhile. That’s why now, these months before your baby arrives, is the perfect time to get started on training.
One thing that I’ve seen over and over again as a professional dog trainer is families spending a huge amount of money on Board and Train or Residency programs, where they must send their dog away for training. They don’t do this because they don’t love their dogs…quite the opposite! They do it because they simply don’t have the time, energy, and expertise available to train their dog as efficiently as they would like. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you’d probably like to save thousands of dollars on dog training when you’re feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed. Getting ahead of the game now will absolutely help you, and it will let you know if you do need to seek assistance from a professional trainer in your area before your baby comes home.
Dog training certainly doesn’t seem like it should make the list of pre-baby must haves, but it does. It absolutely does. Because when you’ve got a completely dependent, completely innocent, tiny, and vulnerable newborn to take care of 24/7, your dog will be much more happy and comfortable knowing how to follow your lead, understanding the commands that you give, and not feeling rushed by a trial by fire training process. I highly suggest getting started ASAP so that you don’t have to worry about your pup at all when the big day comes.