A new baby in the house is one of the top three reasons dogs are re-homed; scary statistics for those of us who love our pets.
With our baby due in a matter of weeks and two unsuspecting Bassets, I sought the help of Aileen Stevenson from the Perfect Puppy Company who has some great tips for making this delicate process run smoothly.
Preparation is everything
A new baby in the house is a big change for humans but it can also be a huge change for the dogs too – preparing them early is key.
According to Aileen, this is one area people often neglect. She said: “When we find out we’re pregnant we know things are going to change massively so we go to classes, speak to people and read various books.
“It changes for the dogs as well, often we do nothing about this beforehand then wonder why there is a problem.
“Rather than waiting for problems, start to think about fading in change now.”
Aileen says among the things that could change are where your dog sleeps, what time they eat, where they travel in the car or where they are walked.
All of this can be very unsettling – so making changes early on will help.
Think about your dog’s personality
We have two dogs; Darcey who is super confident and Dexter the rescue dog who frets about everything.
Nervous dogs are going to find it harder to deal with change but there are things you can do.
For example, if you’re going to have baby gates around the house put them in sooner rather than later so the dogs come to accept them.
If your dog is noise sensitive, play them baby crying sounds to get them used to the sound.
Aileen suggests for nervous dogs scent work can be a great idea to build confidence and reduce the impact of change.
What issues does your dog have?
Most dogs have bad habits; jumping up, barking or pulling on the lead. These habits, although annoying usually have little impact, until a baby arrives that is.
A dog that jumps up when you have had a caesarean, barks when you’ve just got the baby to sleep or pulls when out walking with the pram quickly goes from being a bit annoying to totally unacceptable. It’s better to iron out these niggles sooner rather than later.
The big day
Aileen’s advice when it is time to bring your newborn home is to not make it into a big event. If possible allow Mum to come into the house first, she may have been away for a few days and the dogs will have missed her.
Keep the dogs on a lead so you have some control and in an ideal world you are aiming for neutrality so reward them if they ignore the baby.
If they become over-excited take them away and give them a treat. Think of it as a process, not a one-off event advises Aileen.
The Blanket issue
Many dog owners are advised that if they bring a blanket home from hospital it will help the process.
This Aileen says can be dangerous as lots of people only do this and expect it to solve everything.
Dogs can smell cancer cells and blood sugar levels so they are going to pick up on a new baby smell from the parents’ clothes alone. The process of introducing a dog to a baby needs more than just this.
Aileen is one of a handful of people in the UK with specific training on dog and child dynamics and is licensed by Family Paws Parent Education.
For more information visit her website https://www.theperfectpuppycompany.co.uk
Aileen is Glasgow-based but also does online consultations.