Dear Dogs Today,
I’m emailing for advice as my husband and I have recently discovered we’re going to have a baby! This is our first baby and we’ve got two Border Terriers and would like some advice on how to prepare them for our new arrival.
This will be a new experience for us all so I’d like the best advice possible.
Natalie Kirby, by email
Trish Mahon, Family Paws Parent Education, advises…
Natalie it is terrific that you are getting prepared early on for the introduction of your baby into a two-dog household. You are at what Family Paws Parent Education calls our ‘Dogs and Storks’ stage. Early preparation will save you lots of stress in the later stages when you are perhaps tired with the demands of new motherhood. You have a lively breed in Border Terriers and this can be a good time to fine tune household manners.
Newly expectant parents often find themselves overwhelmed with well-meaning advice and you will find well-researched advice on our website www.familypaws.com including many videos and discussions and free downloads. Before baby’s arrival is a good time to look at your dog’s behaviour and the possible impact that will have once the baby arrives. It’s a good idea to sit down and write a list of any issues you have now with the dogs. Writing it down may help to see something that jumps out at you as being a cause for concern, for example resource guarding of food or toys etc. How do the dogs seek attention? How will that behaviour affect you when you are holding a baby in your arms?
This stage can be a great opportunity to teach your dogs a ‘relax on a mat’ routine if you have not already done so. Also thinking ahead you could teach and enjoy some games with the dogs that buy you time like stuffed Kong toys or treat dispensing toys. Naming your dog’s toys and having play sessions around ‘leave it’ and self-control exercises will help when you have a toddler on the floor down the line.
We always say you should never allow your dog’s free access to baby.
Learning to understand canine body language and the indications of stress in a dog will be one of the most rewarding and helpful lessons you can learn. Start looking at your dogs now and understand how they react to daily life. Put together a plan that includes the dogs in family life as excluding the dogs will result in more stress and less adaptability for your dog in learning to live with a baby. I also like to look at issues with smaller breeds such as teaching your dog to walk down the stairs ahead of you. Carrying a baby and wondering where your dogs are is stressful, so teach your dogs what you want to see them do to ensure you can move about safely.
Have a look at where the dogs sleep and how you will set up baby equipment. Try to keep the dogs’ routines going as much as possible and introduce them to items of baby equipment such as the buggy early on. Some dogs react to the sudden movements of quick release mechanism on buggies so practise all of this calmly and reward the dogs for good, calm behaviours.
If you have not crate trained your dogs, think ahead about how you will deal with times that you need the dogs in one place while you attend to the baby. Introduced in a positive way crates and gates are what we call ‘success stations’. This equipment can give you space and time and you will be sure your dogs are safe and provided for with a well stuffed Kong or similar while you get on with things.
Looking ahead to getting out and about with a buggy and two dogs, consider how your dogs act now. Are they happy to meet people/other dogs? Sometimes the buggy and dogs will not work together and if so work out a plan so that the dogs get their required exercise. If your dogs are ok with it this can be the time to take up that offer of help from family and ask them to walk the dogs.
On your first day home with your baby don’t rush to introduce the dogs. This does not need to happen on that day and is best handled when you are calm. Believe me; your dogs are more interested in a pizza delivery than anything else. You do not need to do any dog and baby greeting until you are ready, and remember the dogs should never have free access to the baby. Once your baby arrives practise awake, adult supervision of dogs and baby at all times.
If either of the dogs’ current behaviours cause you concern consult an approved trainer or behaviourist for some help. Enjoy your bonding time with your baby and best of luck with these exciting times ahead.
Tamsin Durston, Blue Cross Nurse Manager and dog behaviour advisor says…
Blue Cross has lots of advice to help you ease your dogs into the changes ahead. It can often be quite stressful and confusing for dogs when a new baby suddenly arrives. It is a good idea to start preparing them as soon as you can so that they take the new arrival in their stride.
Calmly introducing your dogs to some of the sights and smells associated with a baby can help them adjust to some of the changes in the home before the time comes. For example, having strong smelling baby shampoos around objects like the cot and Moses basket in place before your baby is using them.
Practice taking your dogs out for a walk next to a pushchair, if they pull on their lead they may need some further training. You may also find that you have less time for walks when the baby comes or towards the end of your pregnancy, so see if friends and relatives can help walk your dog to make sure they still gets the exercise and mental stimulation they need.
Start getting your dogs used to being apart from you in the home. They may need to be when the baby arrives, for when you have visitors or when you want to feed your baby. Get them used to this now by popping them in a room behind a stair gate with a tasty treat for short periods, gradually increase the time until it becomes part of their usual routine.
Don't forget that is important that babies and children must always be supervised around dogs and never left alone with them for any amount of time.
We hope our advice helps and best of luck with your new arrivalWe have lots more advice and tips online at www.bluecross.org.uk/dogandbaby