My husband and I are expecting our first child and I'm really concerned that my dog Tasha is going to be upset or feel left out. I want to make sure this transition okay for her — can you give me some advice?
Congratulations! What an exciting time. There are a number of things to consider that will help you and Tasha with this transition. Dogs “know” something is changing and so Tasha is already wondering what’s going on. In fact, dogs can understand information from us by the pictures or mental images we project whenever we talk or think about something. So, you can begin by consciously showing Tasha pictures of what is going on; for example, the baby arriving, the baby crying, and her getting along fine with the baby.
Just like people, some dogs are creatures of habit and others are more go-with-the-flow. Tasha looks like structure is pretty important to her, so the upcoming changes to her schedule may pose some problems. If she’s a dog that gets walked, it’s important that she continue to get her walks. Plan on hiring a dog walker for the first month or so — it will make things easier for everyone to keep her on a consistent schedule. If she isn’t used to regular walks, you may want to get into a routine of giving her two walks a day, both the exercise and the consistency will really help her out.
When the baby arrives, it will be important to communicate with Tasha as things are happening. If the baby is crying, be sure to tell Tasha that the baby is fine and that crying is the baby’s way of communicating. When you are up in the middle of the night, let her know why and be sure to thank her for keeping you company.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is to tell their dog to “protect” or “watch after” the baby. Dogs take their jobs seriously so if you give your dog this job she will want to protect the baby 100 percent of the time — even when you go out with the baby and leave Tasha at home. This will lead to Tasha feeling stress and anxiety because she doesn’t know where Tasha is. Be sure to give Tasha jobs she can do.