A few months ago I was puttering around Pinterest when I stumbled upon a funny little saying about dogs and pregnancy.
“Dogs can tell you’re pregnant they just don’t know how many puppies you’re having.”
While it initially made me laugh I also couldn’t help thinking, “Ain’t it the truth!”
It might seem far-fetched but you’d be surprised at how aware your dog is of your pregnancy. I experienced it first hand during both of my pregnancies with our dog, Buster. Even before I knew I was pregnant I remember him curling up against my stomach one night as I was lying on the floor, something he never did. And during the last few weeks of both pregnancies he turned into my little shadow, following me around the house wherever I went. He knew something was up, like most dogs do, but not knowing exactly what was coming is why it was so important to prepare him for the arrival of each new baby.
If you’re currently (or hoping to be) expecting a new bundle of joy and your very first ‘child’ happens to have four legs and fur, consider a few of these pre-baby prep tactics to make the transition a little smoother.
Long before your baby makes it earth side you need to decide if the nursery is going to be off limits. Some people prefer to keep the space separate to start off, just to set clear boundaries for your dog but others are eager to keep their pups as close as possible when welcoming baby into the home. If you choose to let them into the nursery it’s important they feel absolutely comfortable in the room. Show them some love while rocking in the glider, encourage them to sniff around the crib and other baby gear, and if you’re really feeling welcoming you can give them their own special corner to snuggle up in. This way they won’t feel like they are being excluded from your new life with baby but are along for the new adventure. Being familiar with the space may also limit any unwanted chewing or marking once baby arrives.
It’s also a great idea to get your dog used to you having something in your arms. Think about how enthralled your dog gets when you walk in the house holding something new and interesting. Now multiply that by twenty as that new and interesting thing in your arms smells different, wiggles, and makes strange noises. It won’t be so jarring if you practice by spending time holding a swaddled baby doll. Crouch down to let them sniff the baby, make sure they know not to jump up for a closer look, and allow them to get used to a swaddled baby as the new norm.
One of my all-time favorite things to do when bringing your new son or daughter home to pup is to get them used to your baby’s smell by sending someone (Grandma or Auntie Sue) home early with a garment, hat, or blanket that has been in contact with baby’s skin. Nuzzling baby’s blanket or onesie will allow your dogs to become accustomed to the new smell that will soon be taking over the house, along with a few other choice scents. This technique worked great with our dog and seemed to keep him from being totally thrown off by that heavenly new baby smell. Don’t be alarmed if your dog seems to be taking extra sniffs at you as well, since the hormone shift that occurs after you’ve given birth will cause you to smell different.
Once you and your newest family member are back in the house there are a few scenarios that can play out. While you may expect your dog to be extremely interested and want to catch a glimpse of baby’s face right away, he may end up showing little to no interest at all. Some dogs might be so apprehensive that they hide from their new little sibling for a little while, especially when they hear that first I’m hungry cry! No matter how they react it’s important that you remain calm as both your dog and your baby will notice your anxiety. Sit on the couch and let your dog get used to the smell, movement, and sounds of the strange thing in your arms. Be consistent with keeping them out of your lap and take your time. After your dog calms down a bit you can give them a closer look (and sniff). Be confident in your pup when they first meet your new baby and all should be smooth sailing.
If you are not confident in your dog’s ability to stay calm and friendly with your new little one I would highly recommend putting them in obedience school before the baby arrives (if there is time) or holding off on a face-to-face meeting for a while. Obviously the safety of your baby is top priority so no matter how confident you are in your dog, all visits with baby should be supervised.
Have you already introduced a little one to your dog? What techniques did you use to make sure it was a smooth transition for the whole family?