How To Prevent Your Dog Getting Jealous When A New Baby Arrives
You can never be totally prepared for a newborn, they turn your world upside down in so many good and bad ways! Your dog will be similarly unprepared for all the sights, sounds, smells and NOISES of a new baby, but there are a few simple things you can do to smooth the transition.
And while there are many changes, some are actually a bit exciting for your dog. Depending on his personality your dog may love all the activity and excitement and enjoy having family around more.
- I actually took my dog out more when I had a newborn. We spent hours walking the streets with the pram. I actually had an extra seat for my dog to ride in the back, as he was pretty old and couldn’t walk far, but he loved all those walks.
- We had lots of visitors and had more days spent at home as a family. If your dog is used to you working or going out a lot, he may be pretty happy to have you around more.
- There will be some pretty awesome smells. My dog loved the smell of milk and fresh nappies. In fact so much that I really had to watch him at nappy change time, or he would be in there helping me ‘clean up’, aren’t dogs gross sometimes!
- Babies mean some serious routine changes. If your dog tends towards anxiety and likes a routine, this will be turned on its head.
- Sometimes the introduction of a baby means your dog is no longer the boss of the house. You may have less time to spend throwing that ball for hours or cuddling up on the couch.
- There may be rooms and furniture that are now out of bounds.
- You may expect different behaviour from your dog, particularly if you have a boisterous dog who loves to jump up.
How to prepare your home for the new arrival
If you know that you will need to restrict access at certain times to the living area or bedrooms, do this well before the baby arrives so your dog has less to adapt to all at once. You may find setting up baby gates at strategic locations can be helpful so that your dog can still see you and does not feel entirely excluded, but you don’t need to worry about your dog being alone with the baby should you need to duck to the toilet. My little 3kg Pomeranian was very fond of biting children given half a chance, so he had his own playpen in the living room with his comfy bed, food and water. He felt safe, and so were my kids. It also helped during those phases where my kids were obsessed with playing in his food and water bowls.
If your dog currently sleeps on the bed, you may want to set up a new sleeping spot just in case the baby also ends up sleeping with you. This is actually a good opportunity to spoil your furry kid with a new, comfy dog bed so your pet will not feel left behind! Even though I swore to my husband that there was no way the baby was ending up in our bed, it still happened sometimes on those nights where it felt like no one was getting any sleep. I would have gotten even less sleep if I’d had to worry about a jealous dog who had just been evicted to the floor!
If your dog is prone to jumping up on you, it is time to put a stop to this behaviour before you have a newborn in your arms. It is surprisingly easy to fix. While we are thinking of training, there are a few simple obedience tricks that will help you later on if your dog is not already trained. You may want to train the ‘leave it’ command so you can stop your dog getting into that nappy bin, or retrieve a toy. ‘Stay’ can be useful should you need your dog to learn to stay on his bed or in a certain location, such as his bed in the babies room while you are feeding. Crate training can also be useful for when guests visit or the baby starts crawling. There are many great training videos available for free on YouTube. As a shortcut to teaching ‘stay’ I also screwed an eye-hook into a cupboard near my dog’s bed so I could tether him there if I needed to.
Babies are noisy and smelly
If you will be using specific lotions for the baby, apply some to yourself in advance so those new smells are part of you before the baby arrives. You can also ask someone to take home the babies blanket for your dog to sniff in advance of return.
If your dog is very sensitive to noises, find a recording of baby cries and noises so you can play them at a very low volume while your pet is eating, gradually increasing the volume over time.
Your dog will most likely be slightly demoted and perhaps not be lavished with the individual one-on-one attention he was used to. A few strategies and distractions can help:
- Schedule some one-on-one time each day, even if just for 5 minutes. You can brush your dog, play with the ball or just give some cuddles. This quality time can make up for all those other changes.
- Introduce Kongs, puzzles or chew toys early in case you need to distract and keep your dog occupied.
- Consider a dog-walker if you have an active breed, at least for those early days where it seems impossible to leave the house with a newborn.
- Doggy day-care if available in your area can also be a great outing for a very sociable dog who may be getting bored at home.
- If your dog is used to regular playtimes with his mates at the park, perhaps ask one of those regulars whether you can drop your dog off for a playdate in their yard. Their dog may enjoy the company too.
Consistency is key
And while your life will be far from predictable when the baby arrives, providing consistent and clear messages to your dog will help. If you can at least stick to regular mealtimes for your dog and regular quality time and keep him busy with exercise and games, you will have a happy dog and home.
Dogs like their world to be predictable. As much as possible plan what ground rules you would like, then ask everyone to stick to them. Reward positive behaviour, but avoid punishment and don’t buy into those outdated terms like ‘dominance’ and ‘alpha dog’. If you rely on positive, reward-based training methods your dog will soon learn that this new change is part of normal life and nothing to be feared.
Dogs are very good at picking up when we are stressed or anxious. In the early days of no sleep and the worries of a new parent, your dog may pick up on many unconscious signals and perhaps worry about the stability of their home. This can cause them to act out in unusual ways and add to their worry and yours. As parents we all find it difficult to cope at times and there is help available.
Anxious and aggressive dogs
If your dog has a tendency to anxiety or aggression, consider a chat with your vet before the baby comes to work out some strategies, medications or perhaps even a recommendation for a behaviourist should your vet not have expertise in this area. My little dog was both anxious and aggressive towards small children, so I had to give up on my dreams of my kids experiencing the dog-love-filled childhood I experienced. My focus became making sure my dog was safe from the kids and the kids were safe from him. Of course once he realised the wonders of cleaning up after mealtimes he soon saw the benefit of having kids around!
This is a wonderful adventure for you and for your dog. Your family is growing and there are many changes to come. Preparing your dog is mainly about introducing changes early on and planning what behaviour you will need from him after the baby arrives.
Dr Eloise Bright has worked in Small Animal Practice for over 8 years. She is the mum of two amazing young boys, a dog named Duster and a cat named Jimmy. In her spare time she likes to share animal advice and tips. She is a highly regarded Australian veterinarian with over 9 years experience in Small Animal Practice. Dr Bright can assist you by providing general advice and information to help answer your pet care questions and, where appropriate, help you locate the right specialists to assist you further.