Written by Gayatri Badwal and Arjun Singh Sandhu*
Remember the day when he knew it before you had even bothered to check your HCGs (pregnancy tests)? Remember his cold nose over your belly trying to sniff something new inside? Remember his protectiveness, when he never left your side even when you went through the worst of your mood swings? Well, all those hard times did reap you a cute little bundle of joy that is going to light up your world like no one ever did.
However, often, many people decide to give up their canine pals looking at the complexities of handling a newborn and a dog. As new parents and pet parents, we believe, it's not about fostering new bonds and quitting on the existing ones, it's about moving forward as a pack. Your canine buddy deserves to co-exist with your new family, for he was always the one standing by you.
From our own experience, we can tell you how you can achieve this with a few simple steps, some preparation and a lot of patience.
Before the baby is born
Preparing your canine for an infant begins way before the infant even arrives.
As I always advise, your puppy should be trained well for a "stay" "sit" and "no" command. These three elementary commands shall not only sail you through simple domestic requirements but also through complex stimulus. While most dog trainers and pet owners do train their pooches for these commands, if your tiny one is on the way, it's even more pertinent to start or practice these commands more consistently. Once the baby is here, you'll have to make your dog sit and stay more often to create boundaries.
Also, setting up your newborn's nursery beforehand is a good idea, as it accustoms the dog to various physical changes in his environment. Allow him to have a sniff of the articles you plan to use once your newborn arrives.
Your arrival home with the newborn
Till now your dog was the only darling you had who would get all the attention and cuddles. But now he'll have to share! He'll have mixed emotions about this in the beginning as the dynamics of the house are going to change once you have a new member.
While you were away in pre and post-delivery medical care, your pooch was waiting by the door to get that one glimpse of you. Make sure when you arrive, hand over your newborn to someone and meet your dog first the moment you are home, let him know he's still your baby.
You can make your dog sniff the newborn's swaddle cloth or blanket to familiarise him with the scent, in your presence. Most importantly, enter with a calm, confident and positive demeanour.
If you think you had trained your canine adequately, well it's time to invest some time again in re-training him with certain new ground rules.
Creating a boundary between the dog and the newborn from day one is important. Your dog should always maintain space from the newborn. Space equals respect. It not only allows your dog to understand his new family dynamics, it also ensures safety of the infant. Train your dog to sit and stay while he's around the baby. Any physical contact between a newborn and the animal should be discouraged for as long as you, as the dog parent are not confident of it (do take your time to trust your dog around your newborn).
Never...I say that again...never leave your newborn with the dog unsupervised. Not at least till you are sure of his energy around the baby.
Some dogs tend to get startled on hearing a baby cry while some exhibit anxiety (ours did!) Encourage and reward a relaxed and calm state of mind of your canine around the newborn. That way even when the baby cries, eventually your dog will start being calm in that scenario as well.
Avoid abrupt schedule changes
As you may already know, life with a newborn is not going to be a cakewalk...and when you are also a dog parent, you will need to prepare and plan well. Once you have a newborn, schedules and routines go on a roller coaster ride! But a little planning and scheduling not only helps you fix your newborn's routine, it also helps your dog to get used to his new environment quicker. Make sure you continue his daily walks/playtime even after the baby is born. That way you don't make him feel ignored.
The pack walk
One thing amongst many that you can use to your advantage is the rule of Mother Nature where she has made both dogs and humans, pack animals. Your canine already considers you his pack and you his pack leader. With the arrival of the newborn, you need to establish this status again. Your dog must begin to consider the little one a member of his pack and what better way to build those bonds than a fulfilling pack walk!
Of course, you and your partner will take some time to re-establish your walk routines, or if you haven't been doing so, we suggest you start right away. But once your post-delivery recovery is done, do start walking your little one in a stroller, with the dog on a leash. We assure you the results will astonish you. Not only will this new routine make the dog understand that the baby is a part of his family but will also help regularise your newborn's routine...besides that, who wouldn't fancy a whiff of fresh air after a month of babysitting ;)
With these simple and consistent steps, you can prepare your dog for his new family and also give your infant the gift of having a loving furry sibling.
Happy petting, happier parenting...!
*The Pet-parents are a couple in their late twenties, with a 53-day old baby girl and an 18-month-old American Staffordshire terrier, Pluto. The couple loves to travel and explore new places. Follow Pluto on Instagram @notorious_plutorious