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Oh Baby! – Welcoming a New Human to the Pack

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Oh Baby! I can speak from personal experience that life as an only child is pretty fantastic. Undivided attention from your parents, the occasional dessert for dinner, perhaps a few less rules, and no one ruining your favorite concert shirt…what’s not to love?! Then the unthinkable happens when, without your consent, a new pack member is added and everything changes.

There are a few steps you can take to ease your dog’s transition from only child to big sister. Think about what is going to change for her, besides a tiny 8 lb human alarm clock going off at 2 am. Will she still sleep in bed with you, stay in your room, or will her sleeping area change completely? How much attention is going to shift away from her? Will she still get her daily walk in the woods or dog park time?

To assist your dog in preparing for the big arrival, use her keen sense of smell to your advantage. Decide upon some products you will be using for the baby, such as soap or shampoo, and begin using them before the baby’s arrival. This lets your dog become familiar with the scent, helping her recognize the baby as part of her pack.

Chances are the newest addition will be sleeping in your room. If you are planning to move your dog out of your bed or out of the room entirely, start that transition well before the baby arrives. Make sure the new area is comfortable as possible. Include a blanket or piece of clothing you have slept with, so she still has your scent as she drifts off to dreamland.

When in the hospital after delivery, wear a t-shirt or hoodie while holding the baby, then bring it home so your dog can start getting to know the baby’s scent before his actual appearance.

Remember love is like sunshine, sharing it doesn’t mean you get less. Although you may be inclined to shower your dog with as much attention and play time as possible, “making up” for what she will be missing after the baby’s arrival, you actually want to do the opposite. Slowly decrease the amount of playtime beginning about a month before the baby’s anticipated arrival. This way she doesn’t have to go “cold turkey” when her little brother shows up.

With a few minor preparations, your dog will easily adjust to her new role as big sister. In fact she may enjoy it even more than being an only child, just like I did…well I mostly did.

—Kim P.
Canine behavior coach, behavior advisor, training counselor.