When you bring home a new baby, everything you thought you knew about life changes. Your whole world is boiled down to counting wet and dirty diapers, how often is a baby eating, and wondering when the last time you had a shower was. Piles of baby garments are everywhere. You’re frantically googling (in between feedings) how the heck you’re supposed to bathe your little one without drowning him! And your dog just lays on his bed waiting with patience…
Often, people are very concerned that their dog is being neglected because of the incredible amount of attention that a new baby requires. Once their dog was the centre of their world, now a baby is taking up more time than it even seems available in the day and night. They are full of guilt for not being in the mood to go for their usual 2-mile walk just yet. They worry about making their dog wait an extra 20 minutes to go out while they fix a bottle to keep the baby happy in the mornings.
Just remember, these few weeks of hectic life will pass, and things will settle into a routine soon enough. Instead of stressing about it, here are three things that will help you keep your dog happy while your little one is settling in at home:
Tire them out
I think this is one of the most important things to keep your home relatively chaos-free in those crucial first weeks with your baby. As a general rule, a tired dog is a good dog. Find a way that you can get your dog physically and mentally worn out during the week. It doesn’t have to be every day, but try to shoot for at least 3 days each week when your dog can get a LOT of exercise and play in.
Now, you’ve just brought home a tiny human and are tending to its every need, so you are likely not quite up to long walks, jogs, or hour long training classes just yet. That’s alright. There are plenty of services available to you that will support you, and more than likely, friends as well! You can:
- Find a well-run, responsible Doggy Daycare program that will allow your dog plenty of playtime a few times a week.
- Get your friends to bring their pups around for a “play date” while you all hang out and coo over the baby.
- Hire a dog walker to get your dog a good workout several times a week. You may not even need a professional – I know many people who have hired their friend’s and neighbour’s teens to walk their dogs for a VERY reasonable rate!
While it may seem like a good place to let your dog run, I never suggest taking your dog to a dog park due to the unpredictability factor. You never know who else will be there, and the LAST thing you should be doing with a newborn baby is attempting to break up rough play or a dog fight. Instead, find a small playgroup of dogs that you know and trust with your dog, or opt for more solitary exercise options.
Keep that brain busy
This is as important, or MORE important, as physical exercise. When you aren’t able to give your dog as much attention as you used to, you’ve got to find some ways to stimulate their brains and keep them busy. While a dog may behave fine in their crate all day until it’s time for them to run outside and potty, they won’t be happy doing that unless they are very old or very ill. Instead, here are some suggestions for engaging their brains, even when you’re busy with your baby.
- Get some interactive toys. Filling a Kong ball with peanut butter or yogurt and freezing it is a great option that can keep your pet busy for hours. I also love food cube toys that allow you to put your dog’s breakfast or dinner into the toy and then require the dog to knock it around to get the kibble back out. Just a word of caution…this toy will drive you crazy on a hardwood floor, so pick something else if you’re not on carpet to muffle the banging!
- Buy some butcher bones for your dog to chew. Often a fraction of the price of dog toys, beef marrow bones will give your dog something to chew and scrape for several days and will actually help keep their teeth clean in the process! These are another handy thing to have around to fill up with treats or fillers like peanut butter and freeze once your dog has scraped them clean.
- Find some training time each day. Whether it’s you or your partner, it doesn’t matter. If you can find 10 minutes in your day to teach your dog something new or practice and improve behaviour that they’ve already learned, you’re doing great. Dogs love to learn, so this is a great little treat for them during the day.
Lift their spirits
I have found that this one is the easiest to do because dogs are such loving and forgiving animals as a species. It can be hard in the first few weeks to take your eyes off of your helpless newborn. If you can, though, hand them off to your partner or friend, or lay them in their swing for a bit, and just take a few minutes to cuddle with your pup. They’re working as hard as you are, acclimating to this new life with a baby in it! Just a few minutes every day of playing with you here or there is enough to lift their spirits!
Your baby is going to change your life, your dog’s life, and everyone’s routine. If you are prepared for that, you’re a few steps ahead of most of us! Your dog will not hate your baby for taking up most of your attention, and you may realise that your dog surprisingly understands the whole thing! Help your dog adjust by offering many outlets for their energy during this time, physical and mental, and handing them a little bit of love throughout to remind them that you still love and care for them.