Every dog and owner have unique and sometimes subtle ways of communicating with each other. When you have a baby, it is unavoidable that the unique language you and your dog have developed together will be interrupted. Your dynamic will change.
Your dog brings you a toy and barks excitedly! Playtime! Yay!
Followed by snuggles on the couch, your dog’s face and paws in your lap.
You sit on the couch holding your newborn baby.
Your dog brings the toy over and barks! You tell your dog, “QUIET!” and take the toy away.
Your dog jumps on the couch to get attention, but your lap and hands are unavailable. You tell your dog, “OFF!”
Your dog will try the same behaviors that have worked in the past. When those behaviors don’t work, they may try other ways to get your attention, e.g., by demand barking or being jumpy and pushy. Or extra clingy.
Many parents interpret these behaviors as their dog being jealous of the baby. Yes, some dogs will be uncomfortable with the new baby. The baby’s cries or movements could make some dogs anxious.
However, unwanted behaviors are likely a reaction to ALL the changes and the new reality (which includes the baby!) and the interruption of the dynamic with you, not because they are ‘jealous’ of the baby. They don’t do it for spite or jealousy; it isn’t on purpose. It is an unconscious response to the stress of change.
The more you prepare your dog for the big change, the easier the transition. Alone time training, giving your dog less attention, rewarding your dog for staying on their bed, and installing a baby gate ahead of time make a HUGE difference later.
The Preparation Course "All you need to know to prepare and train your dog before your baby arrives" has modules covering alone time training, sleeping arrangements, dog and baby zones, and much more.
Here’s a free sneak peak at the course:
It is not uncommon for dogs to start having pee accidents, sometimes even poop accidents, after you have your baby. Some dogs pee or poop on baby items or only in the nursery. Occasionally the potty training accidents start before the baby is born, during the pregnancy.
Expert Tip: I like freeze dried training treats from Pupford. There are approximately 475 treats in one bag, less than 1 calorie per treat, and they are great for small and big dogs. I have tested Pupford salmon, beef, chicken, and rabbit freeze dried treats on multiple dogs, and they have been a big hit.
It’s okay to give your dog attention when your baby is around. You don’t want only to give attention when the baby is asleep in the nursery or create a pattern either way.
Rather than petting, praising, or sweet talking to your dog each time they come near the baby, praise them for laying calmly on the other side of your leg, on their bed, or approaching you when you are not near your baby. This way, you are teaching them the best way to get your attention is by not being all over the baby.
Not sure where to start? Here is a helpful illustration of the Leg Divider Method. It’s a simple trick that helps you keep your baby and your dog safe. Do you have multiple dogs? Check out this reel to see how to give your dogs attention when your baby is present and how to practice tummy time with multiple dogs.
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Although it’s common for dogs that were once very bonded with the family to start avoiding you after the baby is born, it can be hard to see your fur baby wanting nothing to do with you.
As painful as it is to see your dog avoid you, even when the baby is down for a nap in another room, it is normal. The newborn, the change of the routine, the hormonal changes and the changes in body odor, the smell of the milk if you are breastfeeding, or the smell of the wound after the C-section can impact your dog’s behavior.
Both Dog Meets Baby courses have a module called First Week at Home. I talk about what to expect from your dog and share ways to help your dog acclimate to your baby.
Know that it is normal, and you can get that bond back. Some parents said it took about 5-6 months for their dog to become their cuddle buddy again.
If you are expecting or adopting your baby, training and preparation will give you and your dog the best chance to avoid behavioral problems and create a smooth transition. Life with a baby and a well-trained and fully prepared dog is so much easier. In this blog post, I go over the preparation and training by pregnancy trimesters.
However, it’s also important to understand that no matter how much you prepare, your dog might have an adjustment period. You will both get through it!
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