Believe it or not, preparing your dog for the arrival of a baby is very similar to how you prepare a human child - make changes gradually.
While dogs do not understand that a baby is growing inside of you, they are acutely aware that something big is about to happen by your change in mood, posture, behaviour and body chemistry.
Preparation Before You Bring Home Baby
The first thing you have to do is eliminate any problem behaviours such as jumping, nipping, food stealing, object guarding and leash pulling. They are not generally acceptable dog behaviours anyway, however, there is nothing worse than trying to have a nice walk, with your new baby in the stroller, and the dog pulling you and the stroller all around the pavement. And if he likes to show his love for people by jumping on them, once your child has learned to stand and walk, he/she will be getting knocked down a lot by the dog - not good.
Start training now, not after the baby arrives. Which means it is time to reclaim your place as the pack leader, the alpha, the woman-in-charge we were told we had to be way back in puppy school. "When your position as leader of the family is secure and it's clear that the baby belongs to you, your pet should not challenge the baby's important rank in your home," according to the Humane Society of the United States.
With a new baby comes a change in routine, but also a lot of new sounds and smells. Prior to your baby coming home, visit a friend's house who has just had a baby and record the baby's crying, screaming, laughing and gurgling sounds. Then play it in the background at your house. This will help your dog get used to baby sounds and not become frightened or confused every time the baby cries. Present a blanket with the baby's scent to your dog. Let the dog explore this new odour under positive circumstances. Reward your dog with gentle words and caresses so that it forms a positive association with the baby even before they are introduced. As well, handle babies so you smell like baby lotion, powder and food. Then go straight home and spend some positive time with your dog. Allow him to sniff you and get used to the smells.
"After a few weeks, combine baby sounds and smells, which should be familiar to your pet by now, with the bustle and attention of a visiting baby," adds the United States Humane Society. "This is an excellent dress rehearsal for the extra visitors who will come by, and attention you and your baby will receive during the first few weeks after delivery."
Bringing Home Baby
While mum is in the hospital, you can't forget about your fur baby. Make sure someone is available to care for him during these first few days. As well, when dad comes home, have him bring something back with the baby's scent on it - like a blanket - for your pet to investigate.
You know when you first step through the door, your dog will be so excited to see you, but won't jump on you and the baby because he was re-trained to keep all four paws on the ground. Have someone else take the baby into another room while you give your pet a warm, but calm, welcome.
Once everyone has said hello, allow your pet to sit near you and the baby and reward it for good/calm behaviour. Never force your pet to get near the baby - let it be gradual. BUT also never leave the two alone and unsupervised.
No matter how tired and overwhelmed you are as new parents, it is important to not forget about your dog. Do not panic or yell at the dog since you do not want the dog to associate the little newcomer with nervous feelings or alarm. Do not banish him outside. This is not only unkind, but also counter-productive since you want to maintain socialization and also make sure the dog does not associate 'new baby' with 'loss of my place in the family and home'… Such isolation is one of the biggest mistakes many parents make."
As well, include, do not exclude, your dog from baby time. Many people will be with the baby while it is awake and ignore the dog. Then pay attention to the dog when baby is sleeping. By playing with dog and baby together, you help re-enforce a positive relationship between the dog and baby, but also between you and your baby and dog.