It’s pretty evident in my photography portfolio and in the way my Instragram feed consists mostly of my black lab, that I’m an animal-lover! Many of my clients share this same view. It makes perfect sense to me when a client requests capturing their first, furry, child and obviously their newborn or child, too. I totally get it!
I’ve heard from many clients that bringing home baby to even a calm dog can be nerve-racking. So I reached out to Philadelphia-based dog behaviorist Krista Milito of The Philly Pack, and co-owner Jeremy Burger, to learn more about how expectant parents can prepare their dog child for some serious life changes.
Krista Milito: The best way to prepare for the arrival of a baby is to be proactive about training. Often, new parents forget that new additions will not only affect their lives, but their dogs lives too. I recommend starting as soon as possible to implement structure and exercise. Waiting until the child arrives or even close to the due date can add undue pressure to everyone in the home. That pressure can result in your dog becoming more stressed than necessary. Unfortunately, they may associate the child with that stress.
Krista Milito: By addressing space early, by the time your child arrives, giving space will be something your dog already has learned to give you, and now your baby. It is ideal for your dog to give you at least 3 or 4 feet of space at all times, unless invited otherwise. This doesn’t mean not giving your dog affection, it means giving your dog the opportunity to earn rewards, such as affection. To do this, I recommend using the “Place” command. The place command teaches your dog to practice self control, or impulse control. Place provides an opportunity for you to include your dog in your life because you have taught them to be mannerly. Place then can become their go to behavior when they are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. We often refer to place as a mediation mat for dogs. It is simply your dog’s safe zone, his or her haven of peace and relaxation.
We also recommend exposing your dog to the sounds of a newborn. Often the cooing, crying and other sounds can trigger anxiety in your pet. Perhaps find baby noises to play for your dog. Doing this while they hold place will be important, because they will learn how to deal appropriately with that specific stress.
We highly recommend that you also teach your dog that calm behavior is rewarded; excitement or overly boisterous behavior is ignored or corrected. Over excitement, although can be endearing and make you feel loved, it is an unbalanced state of mind for a dog. Addressing this early helps keep your dog calm around the baby, and especially when you first arrive home with your child.
To do this, you can wait until your dog is calm before greeting your dog when you come home everyday. They will quickly learn how to gain your affection. Once they are calm, providing them with a nice low-key but loving greeting will set the tone for a more relaxed and stable dog. If your dog is crated, you should wait until they are calm before releasing them from the crate.
We highly suggest having your dog on a proper walking routine. Exercise is the best way to satisfy your dogs physical and mental needs. Exercise expels energy and gives your dog an outlet for social engagement with you and/or other dogs.
Once your child arrives, it is important that your dogs have a chance to become acquainted with your baby via scent. We recommend bringing home blankets or clothing. We also recommend that your dog be introduced to the child when they are calm. Allow them to smell the baby when they are in the proper state of mind, and if you feel nervous, you may want to wait. You can also keep your dog leashed, they can drag it around. That leash can represent being under control while giving you piece of mind. Most importantly, making sure your dog is well exercised beforehand is a great way to start the process.
Thank you Philly Pack!!! Those tips should really help welcome the newest member of the pack into the home! Are you wondering if Krista and Jeremy offer in-home training? Yes! They also offer group classes, in-person or phone consultation and support for clients. They are a wonderful resource for growing families! Learn more on their website.