by Angie Hultgren
Prior to having children, I had extra time to work in the animal rescue field. I volunteered at local shelters walking and fostering dogs and silently judging those families who surrendered their pets when their plates became too full. Fast forward to present day where my rescue heart is no longer filled with judgment. I now desire to help people when they feel this despair, and I want them to know they can have a happy balance of children and pets.
Pets are content with having 110 percent of our attention, which means they won’t understand the drastic change that comes with expanding your family. They do not understand that you are too tired to walk them or that juggling a baby and a leash is not in the cards. They act out, crave attention and become frustrated when they suddenly are lower on the list of priorities. What can be more challenging is if it happens in the dead of winter while everyone is going stir crazy with cabin fever. Now that spring has sprung and the sun is shining, let’s plan ahead and set the family up for success.
Let’s start from the very beginning before the baby is born. If you are beginning to build the nursery and have boundaries for your pet, start to set them now. If you don’t want “Buddy” to climb in the rocking chair, it is very important to start teaching that lesson now. When the chair is occupied, teach the “down” or “off” command with a very nice reward when the optimal behavior is achieved. Eventually they will learn that this is unwanted behavior.
Start Training Accordingly
Think of situations that aren’t problematic right now, but could become stressful once a baby arrives. One thing that took me by surprise was the amount of deliveries that came to my house before and after baby’s arrival. Delivery drivers would ring the bell and after the announcement of their arrival, my dog would bark, jump, and get super excited. Once baby arrived, however, this little dog and pony show was just not going to work. As a result, I worked out a delivery spot with the driver and asked him not to knock the door during deliveries to said spot. I also worked with my dog and reinforced positive behaviors when he laid eyes on the driver and didn’t act out. “No bark” is the command I used over and over, and provided treats when the behavior was met. After a while of training, we were at peace. I thank my lucky stars that my newborn could sleep through a lot!
You can never go wrong with obedience class, especially if you have a younger dog. Not only does it provide appropriate socialization, it helps you bond and set the stage for model dog behavior.
Perfect their Obedience
Another pre-baby task is a very basic obedience class. You can never go wrong with a class, especially if you have a younger dog. Not only does it provide appropriate socialization, it helps you bond and set the stage for model dog behavior. Take a couple of classes back-to-back. Dogs respond very well to repeat commands, so remember to stay consistent and they will act accordingly. This time could shape how your dog behaves with you, other dogs and even the baby that will join you months or weeks from now.
The day has come and baby has arrived. Two key words: Keep calm. When you arrive home, try to remember how excited your pup is to see you. They will want to greet you with enthusiasm and curiosity. Ensure there is someone to enter the house before you and baby (a neighbor, friend, or Dad). That way, the excitement exchange has happened prior to baby entering the room.
The above steps will lighten your load when you’re arms are full. Dogs may be a bit like your new baby; staying consistent is key to removing unwanted behavior from the scene. Breaking consistency may mean you have to start all over. Just like that one time you thought cupcakes for breakfast were convenient for your three year old (or maybe that was just me).
Angie Hultgren spends her days as a Marketing Strategist with the Bengtson Center for Aesthetics & Plastic Surgery. She loves family, faith and her four legged friends.