@smartypaws DOG's are loyal

Courtney Bailey, Pet Lifestyle Contributor

For many of us, our dogs play the role of our very first baby. And for all intents and purposes, they remain our very first baby even when a new (err, more human) baby arrives. We watch both grow, we teach them tricks, we travel with them, we care for them when they’re sick, and most importantly, we love them.

So, the big question remains...

When your family unit grows, how can you introduce your beloved fur baby to your precious human baby in a way that results in endless puppy love?

This is a big time in your life, after all. And becoming a new parent can be exciting, stressful and downright scary at times – and those emotions extend to your four-legged family members too. Fortunately, you can make this introduction extremely positive for you, your pup and your new bundle of joy by following our tips below.

Because let’s be honest, this is the beginning of an adorable and lifelong bond (and one that will soon make up the entirety of your Instagram feed).

Key tip: Start before the baby is born...

1. Nesting 101: Dog Edition

Taking time to set up the ideal living space for your growing family won’t just give you peace of mind, it’s good for your pup too. Dogs thrive on routine and sudden changes to their surroundings can cause stress and thus behavioral issues.

To help put your pup at ease, don’t wait until the last minute to re-arrange furniture in your home while prepping for the new member of the family. For example, set up the nursery and build the crib weeks, if not months, in advance. This will give your dog time to investigate and acclimate to the new surroundings long before his/her sibling arrives.

2. Crank up the crying!

It’s only a matter of time before your ears are filled with the soothing sounds of a baby crying day and night, but before that happens it’s important to get Fido on board with these upcoming sounds, as well. And luckily, with all the technology available to us these days, you can actually search for baby crying sound effects within music apps like Spotify - like this one here.

3. RSVP to kiddie playdates

Help prep your pup for the new arrival by letting them spend time with babies and kids early in your pregnancy. Whether it’s bringing your dog to nearby parks or scheduling playdates with friends who have young children, this is the best way to introduce your dog to what’s to come. These playdates will also give you an idea of how your dog responds to the new energy and help determine if there are behavioral issues that need to be addressed.

4. Don’t forget the basics

Your due date is fast approaching and you’re busy planning for... well, everything. In that process, don’t forget about your dog and their health. Now is a great time to get your pup to the vet for their wellness exam and also make sure they’re up to date on vaccines.

You can also start coordinating dog sitters for when you’re in the hospital, and even your first week or so back at home with the new baby. And don’t forget to stock up on all the goods, from dog food to supplements, like SmartyPaws, to any other supplies that will ensure a smooth transition.

Tips for coming home: Have a plan before you get there... 

5. Bring home that new baby smell

A dog’s nose works on overtime, so alerting them to new scents before you’re home helps them adjust to the smells that will soon be everywhere. To help ease this introduction, have a family member bring home one of your baby’s first onesies or blankets for your dog to smell. This will help your pup get used to your baby’s new scent before you actually arrive home with your new bundle of joy.

6. Bring in the reinforcements

With any training routine, positive reinforcement is very helpful in rewarding and encouraging good behavior. As the American Kennel Club states, rewards can be anything from treats and kibble to toys, praise or play, as long as the dog is motivated to work for it. And in the case of a new baby coming home, positive reinforcement training can help make the transition smoother, as your dog starts associating words of affirmation (or yummy treats) with your new baby. 

7. Routine, routine, routine!

Whether you have a young pup or an aging rescue, every dog leads their best, most balanced life with a consistent daily routine. With that in mind, try to keep your pup’s schedule as consistent as possible in order for these big changes to be easier to deal with.

According to the American Kennel Club, the key to success is making gradual changes to your dog’s routine. And by doing this before the baby arrives, your dog will adapt to the new routine without associating the changes with your newborn. 

8. Remain the alpha dog

With all the newness in your household, your dog may start pushing the limits of their behavior. So, you’ll want to remain steadfast in your obedience and training techniques in order to remain the alpha dog of your household, as you don’t want to encourage bratty behavior.

The good news is, according to renowned dog behaviorist Caesar Millan, nine months is more than enough time to work out any bad behavior and establish yourself as a pack leader. You may even want to enroll your pup in obedience classes, as a refresher course. Your future parent self will thank you for the work you put in now. 

By planning ahead and taking the right steps, you are fostering a life-changing bond between your baby and his or her four-legged older sibling.

So, don’t let these moments overwhelm you. You got this, mama! And for the days when life gets messy, just remember... your social media followers and the recipients of your future holiday cards will thank you.

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