Prepping Your Dog for the Arrival of a Baby

There’s a lot to do to get ready for the birth of a child. Furniture has to be purchased, clothes and toys need to be organized, and various other things in your home may have to be discarded or rearranged in order to make room for baby’s buggy, baby’s play pen, baby’s bouncer, etc. In the flurry of activity it can be easy to forget that our dogs notice all the new goings on, and might need a little support in making the leap from family life as it is now, to life when little one is born. So, what are some things we can do to make our dogs more comfortable with their changing family environment?

1 Allow your dog to sniff and familiarize themselves with new objects and furniture 

Your life will change dramatically when baby comes home for the first time, but so will your dog’s. Help him start making the transition early by familiarizing him with all your new baby gear. This is particularly important with some of our more modern baby accessories like bouncers, swings, or the like. Your dog may never have encountered some of these objects before, so it can help to introduce them to him before baby enters the picture. 

2 Think about boundaries 

Consider what things your dog does that already drive you batty. Those things will only become more stressful when you bring your child home. Now might be a good time to work on some of those naughty behaviors, or set some new boundaries that you think may be helpful when baby arrives. For example, your dog may always have been allowed on the bed, but you may feel it would be safer for baby for furniture to be off limits. If that is the case, he will not automatically assume this when you bring your baby home. It is important to communicate any new boundaries to your pup clearly and consistently in the weeks and months leading up to your baby’s homecoming to minimize risk and frustration in that busy newborn stage.

3 Observe your dogs reactions to babies and children in general 

If you do not already have small children in your life and the life of your dog, it may be helpful to introduce your dog slowly to the idea of having littles around the place. Is your dog sensitive about his paws, tail, or face being touched? It might be a good idea to work on positive associations with body handling. How does he cope with loud crying or squeals? Does he get overexcited around children and need to work on impulse control? Even if your dog is not around children regularly, you can help him build positive associations with children from a distance in public places such as parks or town centers, and general concepts like body handling and impulse control on your own time at home.

4 Set aside time specifically to play with and cuddle your dog

Just like bringing a new sibling home to your other children, pets can feel a little left out when all of your attention is suddenly devoted to baby. Get some good quality time in with your pet or service dog while you can, and consider when you might be able to work that time into your new life when your little one joins the family. That might look like handing baby over to your partner while you and Fido go out for a walk, cuddling up with your pup beside you while you snuggle or feed your baby, putting your baby in their bouncer or cot for a few minutes while you groom or play with your dog, or, in the earliest weeks, calling your dog to the bathroom with you so that you can pet them in the few seconds you have before your newborn needs you again (haha, I’m not joking. This worked well for me, and my dog started getting very excited every time I had to take a potty break).

5 For those with service dogs, practice working with baby gear before hand 

Give your canine partner the opportunity to work with some of the new things you might be using before baby arrives. For example, wear the baby carrier or pull the buggy with a sack of sugar in it while out and about with your dog. You’ll get some strange looks, but at least you won’t be doing it for the first time ever with your tiny fragile newborn. It’s a great opportunity to work out any kinks and do some additional training with your pup if it seems necessary.

6 Consider working with a professional trainer 

Sometimes, we just need a little help. If concerns arise for you that you feel are beyond your ability as a pet-owner/handler, don’t forget that you can enlist the aid of a professional. It is hard enough to juggle being a new parent and a pet owner or service dog handler without having extra worries on your plate as you make the transition. Working with a trainer may be one way to ease those concerns. It gives you a structured time to work with your dog on any undesirable behaviors, provides an excellent opportunity for bonding, and may be an important step to ensure the health and safety of your new wee family member. 

There’s a lot to do to get ready for the birth of a child, and with a canine pal already part of the family, there may be a few more things to do than usual, but with some forethought, a little bit of effort can go a long way in making for a smoother transition to life with a baby.

If this post peaked your interest, you can check out more like it in the parenting or guide dog categories of my blog. 

Seasonal Shedding — Is There a Solution?

Labradors are many things… oversized lap dogs, excellent workers, enthusiastic playmates, and yes, constant shedders. There are a few dog breeds that don’t fit into that category, but often, being a dog owner means vacuuming up fur from the carpet and off the furniture, wiping it off your kitchen counters, dusting it from your shower ceiling (I still don’t know how fur gets up there), and wearing it on your clothing on a daily basis. I was told early on in my dog-ownership journey that brushing would help, but often I find that grooming doesn’t do much other than encourage the fur to loosen up so that even more of it can come out all over my newly washed floor.

Still, while labradors, and other breeds like them, shed year-round, their seasonal shedding during spring and autumn can be intense and thus harder to manage. So what’s the solution?

Spend More Time Outside 

Less time in the house equals less time for your dog to shed in the house. Getting out for more walks or allowing your dog some off lead time in the garden or at a dog park does make a difference in the amount of fur on your floor.

Clean Your House Regularly 

I know this sounds obvious, but when your dog is shedding their winter or summer coat, it really is not overkill to be vacuuming once or twice a day until the shedding settles a bit and isn’t so extreme. Speaking from experience, it REALLY IS worth vacuuming frequently, even if it sounds like a lot of work. It Is far quicker and easier to suck up fur that has accumulated over just a few hours, rather than a few days, and it will be less overwhelming in the long run.

Don’t Bother Sweeping!

Maybe I just have bad sweeping technique, but I’ve never found brooms to be effective at dealing with pet hair. If that’s been your experience, too, don’t bother! If you have hard floors, try Swiffer products, or just get a vacuum 

Get Yourself a Cordless Vacuum 

As I was saying… Seriously, this will change your life. Choose a quality, cordless vacuum that has shown to be effective for dog fur. We have the Dyson Animal

Popping the cordless vacuum off the charger and zooming around with it for a few minutes is SO MUCH EASIER than plugging the darn thing in, hoping the chord will reach wherever you need to go, realizing it won’t and having to unplug it and plug it back in somewhere else, getting tangled up in the chord while you are trying to get into an awkward corner, your dog getting tangled up in the chord while they try to chase your vacuum… you get my point.

If you would rather not do the vacuuming yourself, get a robot vacuum and let it do the work… just keep in mind that this can be a bad combination

if you have a puppy that is still toilet training. If you plan to use a robot vacuum, check your house before each use to make sure there aren’t any messes that would not be vacuum friendly. 

Bathe Your Dog 

I find that baths have a tendency to knock much more fur loose than brushing on its own, so when you notice the shedding is getting real, pop your pup under the hose for a good rub down or bring them to a professional groomer if you’ve got the cash. As always with bathing your pets, choose dog-friendly products, make sure the water is a comfortable temperature (particularly not too hot), and avoid doing it too frequently so as not to dry out their skin.

Care less 

I’m not joking. Your life will be simpler and easier if you just care a little less about seeing fur falling around the place.. It’s the price of having a dog that sheds, and there’s no point in getting up tight about it. Relax, enjoy your furry friend, accept that having a furry friend in the house means there will be fur there, and move on with your life.

Grooming Tools that (May) Help

As I’ve said, I’ve never found brushing particularly helpful in keeping the shedding at a minimum, but you may have a different experience. Here are some tools that could aid you in your quest. This list includes a slicker brush, nylon bristle brush, silicone massage tool, and brushes designed specifically to remove dead undercoat, such as the Furminator. The Furminator may prove especially useful during heavy shedding seasons, but be sure to read the instructions attached, as such tools are usually recommended for weekly or by-weekly use, rather than every day.

So, no, there’s no “solution” to seasonal shedding as far as I can tell. It will happen no matter what you do, but staying on top of house maintenance, spending more time outdoors, and trying a few grooming options can make a difference… and if all else fails, just care a little less. 🙂