Welcome to our TRAINER TIP OF THE MONTH Guest Blog by Kate McCue of Kate's Canines, LLC!
You're having a baby--fantastic! And you have a wonderful four legged companion--life couldn't get any better! As your pregnancy progresses, you may be thinking, will the dog like the baby? How do I ensure that a safe relationship will form between the two? Some of you may think, well of course the dog will love the baby because they'll know I love the baby! And then, there are a select few of you who know, deep down, due to past experiences or lack of exposure, that your dog may not like the baby--but you'll see what happens when the time comes.
As a trainer, I cannot tell you how many times I have come across all of the scenarios I mentioned above. And the number one piece of advice I can give, as a trainer and now as the mother of a 7 week old son, is: regardless of what you may or may not know or think your dog may or may not do--get training. The sooner you start training with the baby still in the womb, the easier it will be for you when the baby is born--and the easier it will be for your dog to comprehend what this new smelly, screaming thing is that has now invaded your household.
Now, you may be thinking, how will I know what to 'train' until the time comes? It's all about being proactive! Two major skills that can benefit any dog, but particularly a dog who is about to experience a huge change, are proper leash walking skills and impulse control etiquette in the home. By mastering the walk, with AND without a stroller, and teaching your dog Place during low and high level distractions, you are giving your dog outlets to drain energy appropriately. A dog who understands and comprehends fully it's 'place' in the household is a dog that does not act out. These exercises open doors to learning how to cope with everyday triggers such as: doorbells, people coming over, and various outdoor distractions that may cause them to react in some way.
Your dog knows you are pregnant. You are acting weird. You smell funny. They have an understanding that something special is happening. This change can cause them to become overprotective or anxious. By helping them to understand protocols that require them to follow, not lead and observe without reacting, you are preparing them for the day that is soon to come when you bring home one of life's most beautiful and frustrating distractions. You are both going to be overwhelmed. The difference is: you had 9mo. to read, take classes, talk to people and get advice--what prep did your dog get? Does he understand what holding a baby looks like? Does he respect your space or is he on top of you all the time? Does he know what a screaming baby sounds like?
You may have had instances in the past where your dog has acted negatively towards children. But do not worry. Past infractions do not indicate a pattern of future behavior. But, it is your dogs way of telling you that they do not understand something and that they (aka YOU) need help in advocating for them and helping them to cope better with situations or people that make them nervous. And please understand, a hyper dog is just as much cause for concern as a dog who is nervous and withdrawn. Learning how to focus in a calm and balanced state is key.
The work I put into prepping my dog for a baby coming into the household has helped us both tremendously. My four legged friend joins me for every feeding, either laying next to me or in his bed until we are done. He is invited to every changing of the diaper adventure. If I am in another room and my baby is crying, Bo Diddly comes and finds me to let me know something is wrong. He is aware that this is a special human being that he treats with great respect. He gives him space, never gets into his face, but enjoys his company in a way I never thought possible. This has allowed me to peacefully join my two worlds of mommy-hood and dog ownership. And knowing that my dog has a clear understanding of all the new things that are happening only makes me feel better and more at ease with this huge life change. It takes work, but it's a labor of love well worth the effort!
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