Dogs are often a family’s first ‘baby,’ and that’s just how so many families feel. My husband and I have four small kids, and our oldest will be 7 this summer. Long before we decided it was time to welcome kids into our hearts, we decided we would get a dog. His name was Regis and he was a very small, very adorable, very sweet Maltipoo puppy that we got as soon as he was able to go home with us. He was the light of our lives. We took him everywhere we went, and I cried like a baby when we’d leave him with my parents or in-laws to go on vacation. He was my sweet baby and I loved him so. It got even worse in our house when I was pregnant with our first. Regis was about 4 years old at that point, and we’d be married for almost 4 years. I was emotional and excited to become a first-time mother with my amazing husband by my side, but I was so attached to that dog that I couldn’t leave him – ever. I’d take him outside with me while I floated in the pool all summer long to relieve the heat because I didn’t want to leave him in the house 10 feet away. He had his own little pool in which he could lie down and special outside dishes for food and water. I was really a mess about that dog.
During my pregnancy I just had such an easy time that I never once worried about labor or delivery. I worried about the dog. What happened if I went into labor somewhere other than home and we didn’t have time to go home and get the dog and take him to my parents’ house? What if labor lasted so long that my parents didn’t want to leave the hospital and the dog was hungry and alone and scared? I was a wreck. It all worked out when I went into labor a week before my due date in the middle of the night and we were able to drop the dog off at my parents with my dad and grab my mom at the same time. Fortunately, we thought to prepare the dog for the arrival of our baby because we loved them both and wanted them to be best friends.
And we have some advice for you on how to prepare your dog for the arrival of a new baby when you are pregnant. Our dog is no longer with us, and I’m happy to admit I was a bit over-the-top and kind of a freak during my pregnant so our methods of prepping the dog for the baby probably weren’t all that professional so I’ve done a little research to help out other expectant mamas as they prepare to welcome a new bundle of joy alongside their puppy loves.
Get Obedience Training
If your dog has never been to obedience training classes, it’s time to get him into one as soon as you find out you are expecting. You need your dog to obey when a baby is present, and you will be very glad you did this once the new baby arrives.
Introduce New Items Early
Your house is about to change drastically, so get the dog used to this a little at a time. Go ahead and set up the swing and bouncy chairs and other items so that the dog can see them, sniff them and get used to them. Then turn them on sometimes so that the dog gets used to them. You’d rather find out how the dog reacts to the noise and movement of a baby item before the baby is in it, you know?
Find a Pet Sitter Ahead of Time
Your delivery is going to take you away from home for a few days, so prepare for your dog’s care ahead of time. Make sure someone has a key to come get the dog, make sure the dog has a packed bag of all his own essentials and make sure he’s with someone he knows and loves.
Bring Home a Blanket
When the baby is born, the hospital will wrap the baby in a blanket. Save that blanket and send it home so that your dog can get used to the smell of the baby. Make sure you let the dog keep the blanket for a while so that it’s familiar with the smell. You want the dog to recognize the baby when you do bring it home.
Never Leave the Dog Alone with the Baby
You should never leave a dog alone with a baby, and it’s just a general rule of thumb. This applies to all dogs and all babies. Your dog might not like your baby. It might cry and scare the dog. It might grab the dog’s fur as it gets older and cause the dog to become injured and react. Just don’t leave them alone at any time.
Give it Time
Your dog might not respond favorably right away. The good news is that most dogs are happy to have a baby in the house provided it is a baby that it knows and loves. Your dog will get used to this new addition if you give it time. Be patient but firm with the dog.
Don’t Forget about the Dog
So many dog owners forget about the dog in their excitement over the new baby. Don’t forget that your dog is part of the family, too, and it deserves to be taken for walks and given treats and have some one-on-one time with you. You’re going to feel much better about the dog and the baby’s bonding if you are able to provide the dog with some much-needed attention. The dog won’t begin to feel as if the baby is taking its place but rather that it is just another person to love for all of you. Give it some time.
Photo by Aura/Getty Images