Are you expecting a new baby arrival to your world? If so, and you already have dogs, it's worth putting in place a plan of action to familiarise them with what is about to happen. It can be an upheaval for everyone! Here are our top tips for bringing a newborn home to dogs.
Preparing to bring a baby into a house of dogs
1. Familiarise your dogs with babies
When we were expecting our first child, we wanted to make sure our dogs knew what babies were, and that they had good experiences with them. Luckily, there must have been something in the water around us because a lot of our friends had recently given birth to beautiful tots, and were happy to come round and spend time with us. It's important to make sure that the dogs know a baby isn't a scary thing. Some people don't want their dogs anywhere near babies, and we can understand that. But if you are in a calm environment, your dog will more than likely want to sniff the baby - it's how they find out what they are. This is a good thing.
Making sure the baby was at all times protected from anything that could be harmful, we allowed our dogs a good sniff - often the head, regularly the bum! - until they were satisfied that it was nothing to be worried about.
What we then found out was that our dogs became bored of the babies. They just ignored them and left them alone! This was exactly the response we were after. We want our dogs to think of our kids as being harmless and not particularly interesting. Something that exists, but has no intrinsic value to them. They are happy to be around the kids, and happy for the kids to be around us too. This is important as you don't want dogs to feel like they have to protect you or guard you from your own children. We made sure that they were not neglected, even when the kids took up 99% of our time with feeds, changes, and everything else a wee baby needs. All our other time went to making sure the dogs were cuddled, walked and not made to feel left out. This is why we can manage lovely shots with us all, like this!
2. Using Adaptil plugins
We also used Adaptil home diffusers. This is the stuff you might use if your dog gets anxious and scared on fireworks night, for example.
We plugged one in for a few weeks before Sam was due, with the idea that it would help the dogs feel calm and relaxed, and so the upcoming change wouldn’t faze them much. They were bound to be picking up on our new-parent anxiety, so we hoped the plugin would negate this. Adaptil works by releasing calming pheromones which helped our dogs to be more accepting to change. We think it worked, and are happy with the way the dogs behaved. Of course, it’s impossible for us to know for certain how effective it was - would the dogs have been okay without the plugin? We’ll never know, but this is one instance where we were glad to spend the money and just doubly make sure we were doing everything we could.
3. Time and patience
Some dogs - like some people - don't like change. That's why it's a good idea to start familiarising them with babies and a change of environment as soon as possible in a gradual and positive manner. Don't wait until the labour contractions start! Weeks and months in advance, if their walking or sleeping routine is going to change, start teasing into the new routine when you have the time to manage their reactions and provide comfort.
This way, by the time the new routine has to kick in with baby's arrival, it will be the familiar old routine, and life will be so much easier for everyone.
It can also be a good idea to have your dog around when building a cot, so they know where it came from. Even better, take them out with your new buggy on a walk before baby arrives. This way they can get used to the wheels and noise. If you are looking for a buggy that can cope with the outdoors and dog walks in the country, we can recommend Nippers from Outnobout. We have used an old style nipper buggy and honestly, it was brilliant. Just take a look at our photo above when we went to Whitby. Really easy to push meaning you can have a spare hand for the lead, and the double is similar. They don't sell the version we have, but you can see some swanky-looking OutnAbout nippers to buy here.
Slow and steady wins the race
It's hard to over-emphasize the importance of gradually getting your dog used to the idea of a new baby. Bringing a newborn baby home to dogs should be an exciting time for everyone - just lay the groundwork first. And if you really want to spoil your dog to make it a happy time for them, why not bake them a delicious liver cake?