I have advised parents-to-be for many years on how to prepare their dogs for the arrival of a new baby, but it wasn’t until the birth of my daughter Alexandra that I had the opportunity to put the advice into practice with my own animals.
You can avoid potential problems by using the tips below to help your dog become more comfortable when your baby arrives:
- Introduce your dog to your baby’s scent. Introduce your dog to baby smells, such as the products that you will be using. When your baby is born, have a friend or family member bring home a blanket that your baby has been wrapped in and allow the dog to smell the blanket and praise her as she is sniffing it.
- Desensitize your dog to your baby’s sounds. Play a CD of a crying baby, a few times a day for a few weeks at a low volume that is barely audible to the dog. Reward your dog while the CD is playing. If the dog seems comfortable and shows no adverse reactions, increase the volume. If the dog becomes stressed at any time, decrease the volume for a couple of days until the dog is relaxed. Repeat this process until the dog is comfortable with a higher volume. Over a period of weeks, your dog will become accustomed to the sound of a baby’s cries even before your baby is born.
- Reward your dog for calm behaviour. Using treats, petting or play as a reward for calm behaviour when the baby is crying or when you are holding the baby provides a positive association, because your dog is getting delicious food when the baby is around.
- Get your dog used to walking with a stroller. If your dog is a leash puller, have another person walk her while you push the stroller. Hire a trainer or take your dog to a training class so that she can be taught to walk appropriately alongside the stroller.
- Have a plan ready for when you go to the hospital. Know a few months ahead of your due date where you will send your dog when you go into labour. When you come home, allow a family member to carry your baby into the house while you spend time greeting the dog. After the greeting is over, sit down on the sofa with the baby in your arms and introduce your dog to the new family member. Keep your body relaxed throughout the introductions and praise your dog for remaining calm.
- Go to a training class. If you have poor communication with your dog, now is the time to enroll her in a training class or hire an in-home trainer to work with you.
Baby proofing your dog is all about making that dog feel comfortable and safe with the new changes your baby will bring to your life. Observing your dog’s reactions around other children will give you an indication of what you can expect when your baby arrives.
Victoria will be speaking at the All About Pets Show on March 29–31 at the International Centre (6900 Airport Road).
Born and raised in Wimbledon, England, Victoria Stilwell is one of the world’s most recognized and respected dog trainers. She is best known for her role as the star of Animal Planet’s hit TV series It’s Me or the Dog, where she shares her insight and passion for positive reinforcement dog training. She also serves as a judge on CBS’s Greatest American Dog.
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Like many 12 year olds, my daughter recently completed her “Babysitting Course”, which in theory will enable her to venture forth into the world of watching other people’s children with insight, knowledge, and experience. However, after having reviewed the course materials and grilling her on the information that was shared, I do believe that as a mother of four I should share some vital facts which seem to have been left out of the course content.
- Changing a diaper on a teddy bear, life sized baby doll or stuffed Elmo is nothing like changing the diaper on a real life, pooping baby. In order to replicate this activity without borrowing an actual baby, you could practice by stuffing an angry octopus into a small plastic bag. About 14 times. For one change. And if you think the squid ink is bad, well…
- Most children do not like going to bed. Most babysitting jobs span the exact timeline of getting children into bed. This is not an accident by the employing parents. They may have in fact secured your babysitting services entirely to avoid putting their own children to bed, for one night. A refusal to go to bed by the child, coupled with the 114th reading of GoodNight Moon will wear down even the most patient of parents. They’ve decided it’s your turn. Good luck. Wear protection.
- Parents will tell you that as long as the kids are safe, happy, and healthy (and put to bed on time, as per the last point), they aren’t fussed if you make a mess doing arts and crafts, feeding the kids, or playing games/building forts. This is a lie. We all hate coming home to a messy house and if you need to leave Junior in front of the television or video game for half an hour before we get home, it’s fine with most of us if it means all the couch cushions are back in their rightful spots.
- Parents who tell you outright that they try to limit their children to only half an hour of television per night are most likely to be the ones who let their kids watch television non-stop all week and are trying to lower their child’s average hours of viewing for that week, all in one night, courtesy of you. Good luck with that. Start building that fort.
- Use the “Well I’m just going to call your Mother and ask her” threats wisely. Kids catch on to this really quickly (just like the fake calls to Santa and the Easter Bunny). Practicing a fake one-way conversation with fake angry Mom is good practice for any babysitter. Do some role play with your friends.
- It’s not always a bad thing if the parents don’t have the money to pay you on the spot when they get home. Most of us feel so guilty that we made you wait for your money that we top up even more the next day when we drop it off. And never say “It’s too much.” We know what the real cost is of watching our own kids. It’s not too much. Reading GoodNight Moon one more time? Now that’s “too much”.