Preparing Your Dog for Baby

Closer to Delivery Day

Two weeks before your due date...

Unless you've scheduled a cesarean section or induction, the delivery date is anyone's guess, so have your dog's ducks in a row. Divide his food into individual servings, jot down pertinent phone numbers (such as the vet's) for the sitter, and keep the leash in a visible place. This way, if you have to head to the hospital suddenly, your pooch's caregiver can find everything in a flash.

Once you're gone, your pet may be anxious with the abrupt change in routine, so stash some goodies in advance. "Keeping him busy is crucial for his well-being and decreases the chance of behavioral problems," says VetStreet.com dog trainer Mikkel Becker, who suggests Kong toys (rubber toys you fill with food). "They keep a dog focused on a productive outlet that releases energy in an acceptable way."

One week before your due date...

You're dealing with a thousand emotions right now (you're excited, nervous, frazzled), and your pet, picking up on those feelings, may act out. Take a leisurely stroll if you're up for it, or cuddle with him on the couch. The TLC will calm your canine and help you feel more relaxed and ready for the impending life shake-up too.

While you're in the hospital...

When your baby arrives and you're recovering from childbirth, your partner, a family member, or a friend should call the dog sitter to make sure she got into the house. Later, have Daddy or Grandma take home one of your baby's first bodysuits or blankets so your dog can get used to your child's smell, Saul says. By the time Baby comes home, your pooch will recognize and accept the strange new scent. "There's quite a difference between the initial sniff-down and a friendly recheck," Saul says.

Coming home...

Brace for lots of licks! Your pooch is going to be overjoyed to reunite with you. "Let your husband hold the baby when you walk into your house," Stilwell says. "Greet the dog first, since he's missed you and will probably give you an enthusiastic hello. Then, after he's chilled out, sit down with your baby and let your dog sniff him to get acquainted." The first few times you nurse or give your baby a bottle, ask your husband or mother to dole out a handful of small, special treats, like chicken tidbits, to your pet. "Dogs sense that nursing is intimate," Saul says. "If they learn they get rewarded for being tranquil, they'll associate feedings with positive times."

In the midst of all the newborn's demands, don't forget that exercise is your pup's happy pill. If he's not getting enough, he'll find a way to burn off his energy -- even if it means raiding the garbage! Have your partner (or a visitor) take your dog for a long walk each day. It will allow you QT with your munchkin and help Fido settle down. He may curl up for a nap as soon as he comes home!

First weeks...

Your dog probably doesn't entirely grasp why the home life he knew is changing. With all the additional stimulation, he may get into more trouble than usual. Stilwell advises: "Rather than scold him and say, 'no, no, no,' all the time, teach him another choice. Redirect his behavior toward something that will make him happy." He's jumping on well-wishers? Remind him he has a new chew toy.

"Include your dog in baby-related activities," Becker says. Let him sit nearby when you're changing a diaper, and talk to both of your "babies" while you're at it. You'll give Bowzer attention and build Baby's language skills too. Eventually, your infant will go from being the stranger your dog is uncertain about to his favorite playmate and lifelong pal.

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