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The arrival of a new baby is a huge transition for your dog, and I recommend preparing for it.
In this blog, you’ll find my general recommendations for each trimester.
If you are a few days or weeks from meeting your baby, check out the last section of this blog post.
I think it’s best to take it easy during your first trimester! Yes, it’s important to prepare your dog for a baby, but you probably aren’t feeling your best, and both you and your partner are going through some huge changes. So just focus on yourself, let your partner focus on helping you, and relax! The time to train and prepare your dog for a baby will come soon enough.
Ideally, this is the time when you should start training. If your dog is already well-trained, you could wait until around 20-24 weeks to start training. However, you will want to start sooner if your dog has more serious behavioral issues, as those take longer to address.
If you are able to start your training during the 2nd trimester, a thorough approach is best. That way, you can cover everything your dog needs to know before the baby arrives. For example, some things you can practice are:
If the last time you trained your dog was when you first got your dog, now is the time to brush up on training.
Pro Tip: It is better to train 3-5 behaviors well than 8-10 insufficiently (your dog only responds sometimes).
Mastering some or all of these cues will make your life with baby and dog easier:
Watch Lola and Pisco Sour showing some of the above behaviors in this reel.
It is a common myth!
You can use a doll, a small pillow, or a bottle wrapped up in a baby blanket, roughly the size of a newborn. Even a pineapple; watch me use one here. The type of the item is less important than doing it, and for some dogs, the doll might be too enticing.
What matters is the practice part!
I didn’t prepare Lola with a baby doll, I used a teddy bear wrapped up in a baby blanket, but I got a doll to film the exercises for the Preparation Course. I use the doll throughout the course, and there is a dedicated module, “How to use a fake baby in training.”
I highly recommend introducing your dog to newborn sounds ◾BEFORE◾ your baby arrives.
A real baby is way more than just the sound! Many dogs initially whine or bark when the newborn cries; it is a common reaction. Prepared dogs tend to acclimate faster. See how Toby’s mom added baby sounds to her pre-baby training.
➜Free Baby Sounds Library + instructions (basics)
➜ Preparation Course: Detailed plan on how to introduce and practice baby sounds
First Week at Home module in both courses - tons of solutions and ideas on how to help your dog acclimate to your newborn.
Introducing your dog to the baby equipment seems easy, but is it really?
Here are the three most common mistakes parents-to-be make:
The Preparation Course has a dedicated module on House Set Up & Baby Equipment to help you prepare your dog and make sure your dog is relaxed around the baby gear.
Introduce your dog to the baby equipment as you receive it or buy it.
Many ask me if they should move their dog out of their bed when the baby arrives. My answer is YES - and it’s best to do it BEFORE the baby gets here!
Some of the most dramatic emails and messages I receive after parents bring a baby home are about the stress of removing the dog from the bedroom without any preparation.
When a dog reacts aggressively to the baby or just not the way the parents expected, the dog is removed from the bed or bedroom that night.
A whining, barking, or howling dog not prepared for this abrupt transition is the last thing a parent of a newborn needs. It is incredibly stressful on everyone and, unfortunately, not the best start to the baby-dog relationship.
Check out this clip from the Sleep Arrangements module on the reasons why it is important to have a plan.
If I had to name one skill that would make your life easier and less stressful, it would be teaching your dog to be okay alone. Watch this clip from the Management and Separation Training to see why it is important.
Another important thing I recommend to help prepare your dog is addressing any serious behavioral issues, such as separation anxiety, aggression toward dogs or people, or being protective of resources. This blog post can help you find a great certified dog trainer if you need one. Serious behavioral issues are not covered in Dog Meet Baby courses.
Having a well-trained dog that can go with you and your baby on walks during and after your leave will give you more ways to include and exercise your dog.
Here are my recommendations if you plan on taking your dog on stroller walks:
Equipment options to consider:
If stroller walks with your dog stress you out, check out the Preparation Course where I cover this topic in more detail. You’ll also get exercises on how to teach your dog to stop when you stop.
If you plan on having your baby and dog in the car together, check out this blog post: Keeping Your Dog and Your Child Safe During Car Rides.
Many parents are worried about their dogs' loud bark waking their children.
The good news is that most kids sleep right through all the barking.
Barking can be very triggering to overtired parents and is one of the most frequently mentioned behaviors that drive parents of infants nuts. If your dog is a barker, I review ten solutions and products in the blog post, Does your dog's barking wake up your baby?
If you are worried about your dog stealing your baby’s toys and items, this blog post goes over various ways you can address this behavior through training and management.
Once you've prepared your dog for the baby coming home, now it's time to focus on the first meeting. Check out this blog post and The First Meeting course, where I give you an easy, step-by-step plan for a safe introduction.
If you’re already in the home run and don’t feel like you’ll be able to cover all this training before your baby arrives, don’t be discouraged! It’s always better to have some training than none at all. Even if you only have a few days or weeks to prepare your dog for the baby, do it, as it can make a big difference later.
You can go through The First Meeting course a few days before your baby is born or even from your hospital bed!
You do have options when you are preparing your dog for the baby. Obviously, the more time you have to prepare, the better. But if you’re already far along in your third trimester, don’t panic! You can still hit all of the essentials. Any preparation is better than no preparation and can make this transition smoother for everyone.
You’ve got this!
Disclaimer: This blog is for educational purposes only. Please contact your veterinarian, a certified dog trainer, or a veterinary behaviorist if your dog's well-being is at risk or your dog's behavior poses a threat to you or other people.