Part 1 Preparing your dog for change – 6 months before baby arrival
You are 3 months into your pregnancy and you feel its safe to start telling people you are pregnant – now is the perfect time to re-evaluate the control you have over your dog! Does he listen to you and respect you, or does he only do things when he thinks he might get a treat? Is she the type of dog that respects human boundaries? i.e. doesn’t jump on people, waits patiently away from the door when visitors arrive, doesn’t pull on the leash and drag you behind her? If you can’t control your dog now, how much more difficult do you think it’s going to be when your little person arrives? I see a lot of people give their loyal companions away when they find out they are pregnant because they never took the time to set boundaries before they became pregnant. All that “love” and over-indulgence confused your dog about who was the decision maker in the family and now he has to pay the price? Is that fair?
It’s time to get ready for a new addition to your family so let’s get serious about being a leader so your dog isn’t the one to pay for your mistakes!
- Pay less attention to your dog – A few months before your baby is due, learn to ignore your dogs requests for attention for increasing amounts of time each day so he gets used to not being the center of attention. A lot of people attribute a dog’s change in behaviour when baby arrives to jealousy when really you’ve displaced him from the centre of your world, a place the leader usually holds, to second best or lower when you get busy with your new bundle.
- Start to practice room seperating early – This is especially important if you have a dog that can’t be alone without you, hates it when you go to the bathroom alone, or scratches when you are on the other side of a door!! Several months before baby arrival you should start to to get your dog comfortable with being alone by separating him from the family. This is important when setting boundaries like not allowing the dog into your baby’s room or in the room with you when you are breast feeding. (If you have difficulty controlling your dog now, imagine how much more difficult it will be with a baby latched onto you!) By teaching him you don’t need him with you all the time, your dog will be more relaxed when you are busy and can’t have him under foot or in the same room all the time.
- Make sure you exercise your dog – Each dog is different (age, size, health issues) but a general rule is at least an hour a day to ensure they aren’t bored. This helps guard against destructive boredom, tires them out and stimulates their brain especially if it’s a controlled walk where you challenge them to focus on you! It also allows for a great time where you can still bond and praise your dog for “right actions”.
- Set aside time every day for play – At least 15-30 minutes a day for playtime, and petting or brushing/massage, this is both a great stress reducer for you and the dog! By doing it at different times and being the instigator, only further helps to strengthen your bond and show your dog you are a capable leader and they are still an important part of the family.
- Set boundaries now - does your dog currently lay under the dinner table or worse, beg, jump up on table, counter surf, whine for food, etc?? You will have trouble getting your dog to listen to you in other areas of life if you don’t set boundaries around FOOD. Give your dog plenty of time to learn new habits and boundaries around food and the kitchen. Start by sending them to their “place” (bed, kennel, mat) with lots of praise for staying and correcting them for even trying to enter the kitchen when you are preparing food, or eating. Use a door frame or entry way as the invisible boundary they do NOT cross during your meal time.