“But what are you going to do about the DOG?”
With the exception of a few dog-savvy friends, this seemed the inevitable response from people when we announced that we were expecting. As though the dog had been our child substitute and now that we had the real thing on the way, there would no longer be a place for her in our family. As though she might pose some threat to the babies and would have to be evicted for their safety. It made me cringe.
At first, I was flippant: “Well, if she doesn’t get along with the babies then I’m sure that healthy newborn twins will rehome much more easily than a middle-aged mongrel.” But when I simmered down and realised that their question was coming from a place of concern, I started to take the time to explain how we planned to help Josephine-dog find her place in a family that was suddenly full of babies.
So here is the plan thus far, which I’ve condensed into five easy steps. Point three is actually booked in for tomorrow, but I feel as though we’re in a good place for the others.
1. Familiarise your dog with walking beside a pram
Truth: Your pram is a flesh-eating monster and only your dog has noticed. This is evidenced by her sheer refusal to walk sensibly beside the pram, preferring instead to skitter ahead so that you almost run her over.
Combat this before you’re sleep-deprived and have a baby in the pram. Simple desensitisation should do the trick, offer plenty of rewards for sensible heelwork and she will be walking happily beside the pram in no time at all.
2. Sort out any niggling training woes now
Barking at the postman? That’s going to wake the baby! Jumping up? Will knock a toddler flying. We know that no family is truly complete without a dog, so give yours the skills she needs in order to be a real asset to the family. It’s always worth spending a ‘refresher’ session or two with an accredited trainer, just to make sure that your dog is as ready for the baby as you are.
3. Schedule a general MOT for your dog
If you’re going to miss a health complaint in your canine companion, it will be in those first few months after giving birth. For your own peace of mind, schedule a check-up with the vet before the baby comes.
4. Take a ‘test drive’ with a baby
If you have friends who have recently sprogged, now is the time to invite them over. Of course, no dog should ever be left unsupervised with a baby, but spending time with friends’ little ones is a super way to familiarise your dog with the idea of a baby in the house.
5. Finally, make the most of her
These are the final few months that you will spend as just your little family, so take some time to appreciate the dog. Remember how you felt when you first brought her home. Remember that she won’t be with you always. Take her to her favourite places and really engage in play with her. Visit the woods and the beach. Draw up a little ‘bucket list’ for your dog and try to tick all of the goals before the baby comes. If you feel like being silly, throw her a ‘pawty’ and invite her friends. Make sure to bring a camera along and capture some memories that you will treasure forever.