Prep Your Pooch

In many ways as a couple, your dog is like your first baby. It’s likely that your pup will sense something is up almost as soon as you are pregnant, but there are still some important steps to take to ensure one big happy family. Below are some steps to take during your pregnancy to prepare your dog for baby’s arrival, and some tips to help make the transition easier on your dog (and you) when baby comes home.

During Pregnancy:

1. Get Any Unruly Behavior Under Control

Things that seemed like a minor nuisance before you were pregnant will become larger issues the closer you get to baby’s arrival. For example, your dog jumping up to greet you may be cute now, but it won’t be when you’re 8 months pregnant or have a newborn in your arms. Sign them up for an obedience class to nip any lingering bad habits in the bud.

2. Introduce Baby’s Items and Nursery

Betsy Saul, co-founder of Petfinder.com suggests in this article to get a doll and treat it as you would an infant. Setup your baby’s things, such as the bassinet and crib, and use the items with the doll as you would with a baby. Allow your pup to sniff around these items and get acclimated to them. Saul also suggests walking your dog with the stroller before baby arrives.

Cesar Millan advises to keep the nursery off-limits at first and to set clear boundaries for your dog. Conditioning your dog to respect an invisible barrier around the nursery and only allowing entry under your command will establish that the room belongs to you--the pack leader. Or, set-up a Stair Barrier as you approach your due date, to ensure your dog stays on the first floor of your home and away from baby’s nursery.

3. Line Up Your Dog Sitter for Your Hospital Stay

Do you know who will be caring for Fido while mom and dad are at the hospital? Make arrangements sooner rather than later, and if it’s someone new to your dog, invite them over to meet your pup before the big day arrives.

After Baby’s Born:

1. Introduce and Claim Baby’s Scent First

Before you bring your baby home from the hospital, Cesar Millan suggests bringing home an item with your baby’s scent on it first, such as your baby’s burp cloth. By allowing your dog to sniff the item from a distance while you are holding it, you are communicating that any item with that scent belongs to you and that your dog requires permission to approach it. For details on how to walk your dog through this training process, check out this post.

2. Take the First Meeting Slow

    Expect a lot of licks when you get home! "Your pooch is going to be overjoyed to reunite with you. Let your husband hold the baby when you walk into your house," advises Victoria Stilwell, dog trainer and host of Animal Planet's It's Me or the Dog. "Greet the dog first, since he's missed you and will probably give you an enthusiastic hello. Then, after he's chilled out, sit down with your baby and let your dog sniff him to get acquainted."

    3. Include Your Pouch in Baby Activities

    Your dog probably won't understand why home life is changing and he may end up getting into trouble. Rather than always making him the outsider, "Include your dog in baby-related activities," suggests VetStreet.com dog trainer Mikkel Becker. "Let him sit nearby when you're changing a diaper, and talk to both of your "babies" while you're at it. You'll give Bowzer attention and build Baby's language skills too."