Be Dog Smart: Preparing my dog for the arrival of a new baby

Here at Dogs Trust, a question we often get asked is how to prepare your dog for the arrival of a new baby.

We speak to Emily, South West Education & Community Officer (and proud owner of Max) who tells us how she is preparing her pooch for the arrival of a new baby...

"Upon finding out I was expecting a new baby in November, as well as all the other things going through my mind, one of my concerns was how well my dog was going to be able to adapt to this huge change. Working in a Dogs Trust Rehoming Centre, I have heard many similar stories coming from other expectant families in my situation; ”this is the first baby coming into our family, he has not had a lot of interaction with children, what can I do?"

"Well, the best formula I can give is 'preparation and consistency.' If we have nine months to prepare ourselves for the arrival of our little one, surely our dog is going to need time too. As a rescue himself, my dog Max already has a lot of insecurities and worries, so if I can do as much as I can to make this transition smooth and less stressful for him, in nine months time we will have a happy healthy baby, with a happy healthy dog!

"I am due on August 23rd of this year, a little girl, and already we have done lots of positive work and training with Max to help him prepare. Hopefully these are simple strategies that you can also use with your dogs."

My top tips

  1. Make these changes as far in advance as you can so your dog can get used to them – install new stairgates where they will be used in the house and be consistent in using them
  2. Establish clear rules you would like your dog to follow and be consistent with them. E.g. with us, if the stairgate was closed, Max was not allowed upstairs
  3. Allow your dog to get used to these changes gradually. Begin by getting them used to being in the “allowed” areas of the house using positive reinforcement
  4. If they are worried about being on their own at nighttime, leave a lamp or radio on for them to help them feel calmer
  5. Purchase large items in advance, so the dog can get used to their presence in the house. Items like a pram, cot and moses basket were bought soon after my 12 week scan so Max could get used to them. Then, practise using the pram around the house and garden so your dog can familiarise themselves with it
  6. Start to use the baby's washing powder and bath items on yourself so your dog can get used to the new smells around the house
  7. Purchase a CD of baby sounds you can play to your dog. With positive reinforcement and reward training, they can get used to these new sounds that may sound strange and scary to them
  8. Think about any behaviours your dog may be displaying that you would like them to change before the baby arrives. With Max, this was getting over excited when visitors arrive, walking sensibly on a lead and helping him to settle down calmly
  9. Take him to a local dog training class so they can support you in making these changes. Click here to find your nearest Dogs Trust Dog School classes
  10. Be consistent in training your dog, these changes make take time and hard work, but they will help make your dog’s life so much easier when the baby arrives

If they are worried about being on their own at nighttime, leave a lamp or radio on for them to help them feel calmer.

What we did...

"We began by introducing new boundaries for Max in the house. Max has always been allowed upstairs and has always slept in our room with us, as he prefers not to be by himself. Both myself and my husband know that when the baby arrives, this will need to change.

"Using all of the strategies listed in my top tips above, Max has now spent nearly two months downstairs without any barking, whining or upset. The boundary is completely enforced for when the little one arrives.

"We also made sure Max has been able to get used to the new sights, sounds and smells that Max is likely to experience when the baby arrives.

"Finally, Max has been attending Dogs Trust Dog School. As he already knows basic commands, his training has been tailored specifically towards helping him to prepare for a new baby."

How is it going?

"Although all of these things are helpful for both Max and us, we still have lots to do which you will be hearing about over the next few months! For now, anticipate the changes that are going to begin when the baby arrives and help the dog adapt to them is the best way to help them prepare. You can start be doing the simple things I did...

"Introduce new boundaries nice and early so your dog can get used to them, help your dog familiarize themselves with the new items, smells and sounds that will appear around the house, and provide them with positive reward based training to help support them to settle, become independent and walk loose on the lead. You can also book training classes with your local Dogs Trust Dog School where they can give you specific training tailored to your dog's needs."

Find out more about how Dogs Trust's Be Dog Smart campaign, helping children and families understand more about how to behave around dogs in order to keep themselves safe