1 – Be Proactive
My first trimester brought an overpowering state of fatigue that I had no idea existed! This stage of pregnancy is a great time for preparing for your child’s arrival. Part of your plan should include training and preparing your dog. You could list some dog toys and games and other items you will need over the next few months to keep your dog busy on days that you can’t take him out for walks as often as you normally would. It might be a great idea at this time to find a professional dog walker in your area to help with dog walks for at least the last few of weeks of your pregnancy and the first couple of weeks or so after the baby is born.
2 – Set Goals That Make Sense
Start out by listing all the wonderful things your dog can do. You are going to be amazed at all the great behaviors your dog knows already, and then you can start your new training plan with confidence.
As part of your goal setting, put together an exercise plan for your dog for after the baby arrives. Whether that means you hire a dog walker or if your partner has to get up early to walk the dog each day, is up to you to decide. You could also plan activities you can do with your dog at home, such as placing a chair outside to play fetch.
3 – Be a Great Leader and You Will Get a Great Dog
The 4 main traits of Leadership that you must exhibit when training your dog are:
1. Control of all resources including food, toys, and attention,
2. Respect of personal space,
3. The ability to influence behavior in any situation, and
4. Proactive intervention.
In order to be a good leader you need to be able to control the things (food, toys, walks) that your dog might want, make sure he always respects your personal space and does not enter it without being invited, be able to train the behaviors necessary for your dog to be well-mannered and safe, and be someone your dog can count on.
As part of my leadership dog training program, I always made sure that all of my dogs were comfortable with confinement. I created a safe and pleasant place where I could put them if I needed them to settle into their Doggy Peaceful Place. I started by placing treats in their kennels, so they would go in to get them. Once they were going in without any problems, I increased the amount of time they were in their kennels by giving them a bone to chew.
4 – Never Forget the FUNdamentals
During the second trimester, most women experience a return of their normal energy levels, and so this is a great time to get more fully involved with training your dog.
There are some definite behaviors that you need to master with your dog through your training program, but don’t worry – the expectations are not at all out of reach. Focus on using positive reinforcement to teach him the basic foundation behaviors, which are: Response to a name in ANY situation, Sit, Down, Come, and Walk Nicely. I don’t teach a Stay command because I teach my dogs to hold each position until I give them a release or some other cue. In this way, Stay is incorporated into ALL the behaviors I teach.
In my opinion, THE NUMBER ONE behavior to teach is the Long Duration Down. There will be many times when you will just need your dog to be able to lay calmly on his bed so that you can relax, change the baby’s diaper, give the baby a bath, feed the baby, etc. Believe me… this is so worth it!
5 – Teach Your Dog Some GREAT Manners
My GREAT Manners program consisted of teaching the Personal Space Bubble, Wait for Food, Wait at the Car, Wait at the Door, Down Stay, and Leave It. In essence, a manners program uses good impulse control and teaches your dog how to “ask permission” by offering an appropriate behavior, such as a sit.
The key to your success in teaching your dog great manners is making sure you control all resources whenever you are training. Set clear boundaries, and never allow your dog to breach those boundaries.
6 – Make Sure Rover is Comfortable Walking Beside a Stroller or Baby Buggy
Many dogs get agitated and excited by things that move. Baby strollers are no exception! Starting in my sixth month of pregnancy, I would walk the empty stroller around the neighborhood so that I could teach my dogs that it was no big deal. Once each dog was able to walk beside the stroller on their own, I started to practice with two at a time, three at a time and finally all four of them at once.
Take some treats along so you can use them to maintain your dog’s focus during the walk, since in order for him to be able to have his dinner, he needs to be walking politely and calmly beside you. Many dogs will jump all over the place the first couple of times they walk beside a stroller. Even if you practice walking up and down the hallway or around the yard, that would be enough to get your dog accustomed to the movement of the stroller so close to them.
7 – Get the Baby’s Room Ready Nice and Early
When I was about seven months pregnant, my husband and I painted and set up the baby’s room. I brought my dogs in one by one to check out the room and then I taught them an invisible wall at the entrance to keep them out unless of course they were invited in.
Throughout the remainder of my pregnancy, I would take the time to sit in my rocking chair with one of my dogs resting near me. I wanted them to see the baby’s room as a relaxing place that they were welcome to explore, but only when invited and only if they were able to remain calm and still.
8 – Practice Desensitizing Your Dog to All the Noises Your Baby Will Make
I recommend a CD called Preparing Fido, which is a comprehensive collection of baby sounds. This CD (I’m sure there are many others like it) was great for preparing my dogs for the arrival of my daughter.
Desensitization is basically defined as presenting a stimulus in a reduced (but incrementally increased) intensity so as not to cause a fear response. You need to slowly increase the intensity as your dog adjusts to it. If at any time your dog shows signs of fear or distress while the CD is playing, the volume should be turned down or off completely. The best way to do it is to start playing the CD at meal times at a very low volume, then turning the sound off once the meal is over. Once your dog gains experience listening to the sounds and shows no signs of stress, you can play it increasingly louder and at various times throughout the day.
9 – Bring Home the Baby!
Have your partner take a blanket home from the hospital that has your baby’s scent on it. Let your dog smell it. On the day that you bring Baby home, one of you will need to enter your first to put your dog on a leash. If he is too excited, take him to his Doggy Peaceful Place and wait until he’s calm down. If he is sitting nicely, bring the baby to him and lower the baby carrier just enough so your dog can sniff the toes — not the face. Keep the first meeting quick to make sure it’s not too overwhelming for anyone involved.
It’s SO IMPORTANT to always keep in mind that your dog is an animal and may behave unpredictably at any point in time. No dog — no matter how mild-mannered — should ever be left unattended with a baby or toddler under any circumstance.
Now just enjoy this time and live in the moment. That Baby will grow up so quickly!