Now that we are literally in the home stretch of our pregnancy, with a few weeks to go, we have been doing our best to prepare our beloved little Victory for her little sister’s arrival along with the great, positive change that will impact all of us.
If you are expecting, and want to create and foster a happy and healthy environment for your new baby, your family, and your furry family member, here are some thoughts and ideas, outlined below.
MAINTAIN DAILY WALKS AND OUTINGS WITH YOUR DOG
The number one thing you can do to keep your dog happy, healthy, and calm during the arrival of your new baby are maintaining daily walks.
-It is a good idea to vary the times of walks together because a baby’s schedule is unpredictable to help prevent your dog from expecting walks at certain times of the day.
-If possible, vary who walks your dog so when you are occupied someone else can step in and help with dog walks, when necessary. (Victory is not always amenable to this!)
-Most importantly, when you are able to go for walks with the baby, be sure to include your dog on these walks in order to help make him/her feel included, too.
-Victory is accustomed to going on outings with us. It is our sincere plan to continue this practice, after the baby arrives, so she remains included. It will, however, take a little more creative planning on our part!
PREPARE YOUR DOG FOR THE BABY’S ARRIVAL
With a new baby, your dog is going to be bombarded with many new smells, sounds, and experiences. By introducing these to your dog in a gradual way, you can help prevent an invasion on his/her senses when the baby first comes home.
-Let your dog get accustomed to the sounds a new baby will make. This will be new for everyone to get accustomed to, including your dog.
-Let your dog sniff some of the baby’s items first. When you are in the hospital, it is a good idea to send a blanket home with the baby’s scent on it. This allows your dog to get used to the new smell. In our case, we plan to do this along with bringing Victory to the hospital, post delivery, which we received special permission from the hospital, to meet her little sister to help her prepare and to ensure Victory is included as part of this special experience.
-Let your dog get accustomed to the new baby gear on his/her terms. We have actually put Victory in the baby’s crib and buggy, pictured above. (Victory has also sniffed out the baby’s infant car seat as well, but she is a little too big to fit into the infant car seat in order to get a photo of her!) We believe she knows change is upon us. I am sure she can feel my growing belly when I pick her up and hold her along with the physical changes that have occurred in our home. We have also tried to bring her into the baby’s nursery to get her accustomed to things. Recently, she has gone into the nursery on her own, to check things out, which has been great! We have decided to let Victory decide when she wants to come into the nursery. We know, in time, that she will get curious and want to come into the nursery on her own more frequently. This is what happened when we first brought her home after rescuing her; she was very cautious of exploring the house and eventually came to exploring and feeling comfortable in our home in her own time.
-Keep in mind that no dog is the same. Talk to others, to gain insight, who have had experience with bringing their baby home to their dog. Our pediatrician shared with us recently that Victory will likely soon view the baby as part of her pack and she will view the baby as something to protect, similar to a puppy of her own. The pediatrician also said that dogs are very good about understanding family dynamics and structure. We shall see!
CREATE A TRANQUIL SPACE AT HOME
By promoting a safe and calm space within the home, you will ensure not only your dog remains happy and healthy, but the whole family does as well.
-Provide a safe, warm space for your dog to curl up in away from the baby. Victory has several spaces in the house that are exclusively hers, including her ‘hut!’
-Be calm with your dog, even under stress. Having a new baby is a big change and stress inducing, at times. Dogs, especially our little Victory, are highly attuned to our actions, demeanor, and voice. If we get stressed, Victory feels the stress ten fold. She is extremely aware of her environment.
CREATE A PLAN FOR YOUR DOG DURING THE BIRTH
The birth of one’s baby is unpredictable, in most cases, baring a scheduled cesarean or induction. However, the last thing you want to do is rush off to the hospital/birthing center without a plan for your dog.
-Prior to your birth/due date, decide who will care for our dog while you are in the hospital. It is important for this person to know how to care for your dog, as each dog is different. Make sure you include instructions and emergency contact numbers, including the number for your vet and emergency vet. We have a few friends lined up to help us take care of Victory during this time to ensure that we have someone to care for her during the labor and delivery time.
-There will be a lot going on during this time and it is not the time to have a stranger help you with your dog. Make sure the person who is caring for your dog is someone the dog knows and is familiar with. Make sure your dog is comfortable on walks and feedings with this particular care provider.
-When returning home, make sure you have focus on your dog as well. This will be a big change and your dog needs to be and feel reassured and included. (Our Bradley teacher informed us that our dog is very similar an older human sibling, and to be mindful about how this change will impact her [Victory], similar to an older human sibling.)
PLAN FOR ONE-ON-ONE TIME WITH YOUR DOG
For many dogs, they came first. Many were on the scene long before any children came along.
-While your time is now more limited with a new baby, it is vitally important to carve out alone time with your dog on a regular basis to keep the bond strong.
-Spend quality one-on-one time with your dog every day. This is not only for their benefit, but yours too. Time spent together will recharge you both, promoting a happy healthy family for everyone.
-Importantly, if you have special rituals with your dog, keep those in place. For us, Victory loves ‘night-night!’ She loves to jump into bed and play with us and have her belly and head massaged by us. It is also a soothing and a fun routine for us, too! We plan to keep Victory’s routine the same as it is now as much as we can. We believe, at some point, we will fall into a grove, even our little Victory will as well!
-Most of all, be present and continue to love your furry family member, like always! Victory has been a great part of our journey into parenthood and I (we) am not sure what I would do without her! She has been along my (our) side every step of the way, and she will continue to be there with us during this new chapter in our lives!