So you’ve prepared the nursery, bought the pram, cleared out the cupboards? All prepared? Great. But is your dog?
Reams have been written about how your pets will react to your newborn baby and oodles of articles have focused on toxoplasmosis (from cat litter) and jealousy from dogs. But have you ever stopped to think that your pets – particularly your dog – may be actually stressed when you bring baby home?
Cats are notoriously more independent than dogs and don’t seem to display the same degree of jealousy or upset as the canine members of the family, but dogs prefer spending time with their owners than being on their own, so it’s not hard to work out why it can be confusing and frightening for a dog when another little person suddenly appears!
Here are just some of the ways to spot that your dog is becoming distressed….
- A worried dog may turn his head away and show the whites of his eyes at the same time. Never ever touch or approach a dog who does this because it’s likely that he will snap or even bite.
- Sniffing is a clear indication of stress. This can often happen if, for example, you are shouting at your dog to come over to you ‘RIGHT NOW’. The dog will slowly move, sniffing the ground. In effect, what he’s saying is ‘please stop shouting at me’.
- Just as when you’re stressed yourself, sweating can be another sign of canine stress, particularly from the paws. Shedding of hair is also common, many dogs will shed copious amounts of hair when they’re stressed.
- We’ve all heard the jokes about dogs licking their genitals, but, in addition to licking as a cleaning mechanism, dogs will also lick their genitals in moments of anxiety.
So, now that you recognise the signs that your dog may be confused, sad and distressed at the changes in his home – particularly if this is your first baby – how do you ensure that he doesn’t suffer unnecessary stress?
Well, you could try the following to ensure that the transition from Mummy, Daddy and our ‘doggy baby’ to Mummy, Daddy, our baby and ‘the dog’ is as smooth as possible.
- During your pregnancy, if your dog isn’t already trained, then make sure he is now. The last thing that you need when you’re trying to cope with the needs of a newborn baby is an unruly dog running about out of control.
- Does your dog bark a lot, or jump up on yourself and visitors? These are not only annoying traits but, when you’re looking after a baby, may prove dangerous and disruptive. Again, sort these issues out during your pregnancy. Dog trainers and animal behaviourists are now available across the country, so take advantage of their services.
- It’s becoming increasingly popular to have a dog cage somewhere in the house. Simply having a cage – with plenty of room – in which you can lock your dog for a period of time will not only give you a safe place to confine him to, but will give him a safe place, which he can call ‘his own’. Remember though that dogs should not be confined like this for more than a few hours at a time.
- It can also be a good idea to introduce your dog to babies before you bring your own child home. If you have friends or family, who have dogs, then invite them over to your house for a little ‘socialisation’. After all, socialisation classes for dogs are being run in many parts of the country, so why not run you own for your dog. This will mean that, by the time you bring baby home, your dog should be well prepared for all that that entails! Or should that be en-doggy-tales?