How to Help Your Dog Prepare for a New Baby

This post is in dedication to my sister, Julie, and my cousin, Emily, who are both due to have a new member in the family in 2010.

For people with dogs who are expecting a new baby in the family, it is important to prepare the dog (or dogs) for the new arrival. You will want to implement changes which will affect your dog when the baby arrives BEFORE the baby arrives. For example, if you take the dog for a walk every morning but will most likely be unable to do this every morning when the baby arrives, mix up the times when you take your dog for a walk. This way, the dog doesn’t associate the baby with interfering with his scheduled walks. Or if you take the dog to the park every weekend, but don’t think you will be able to when the baby arrives, reduce the number of weekends you take the dog to the park, hire a dog walker to take the dog for walks, or schedule a day for your dog at doggie day care.

Make sure you dog knows their proper pack order. It is not a bad thing for your dog to be at the bottom of the pack list. It just means that you and all the human members of your family come first. This is very important for several behavior issues in dogs. And generally, a happy dog is a dog who doesn’t have to take on the stressful role of pack leader and fill in where the human pack members are falling short.

If your dog is pushy and has a way of acting badly in order to get what they want, then you are not the pack leader. Don’t worry, you don’t have to use any force whatsoever in order to move your dog to the lower rungs of the pack order. Violent methods of forcing your dog onto their back or physical punishment are NOT NEEDED! It is very simple to move your dog to bottom of the pack list, but it takes time so do it before the baby comes.

The first thing you need to do to put yourself and your other family members at the head of the pack is to stop giving your dog special treats and toys when the dog hasn’t earned them. Pick up all their toys and put them away. Take one toy at a time and give it to the dog to play with only after they perform a command, such as sit. When playtime is over, take the toy back and put it away. Only give the dog a treat after they have done a trick or followed a command. Everyone in the family needs to participate in this.

The second thing you can do to move family members to the top of the pack list is to stop allowing the dog on the furniture or beds. Give them their own special place to sleep, such as in a dog bed, a crate, or put them in a separate room.

Other things you can do to move your dog to the bottom of the pack list is to follow these rules: Family eats first – dogs do not get to eat until after the family has eaten their meal; People go through the door first – don’t let the dog push their way through. Make them sit and stay while the family goes through the door; Make your dog move (without using force) when you want to walk somewhere – don’t walk around your dog; Practice obedience – take 10 minutes a day or every other day going over basic obedience commands and tricks. Each family member needs to participate; Establish off-limit areas of the house – a dog who has freedom to go wherever they want may consider themselves as a pack leader. Limiting the places where your dog is allowed to go will also help to establish the baby’s room as off-limits and/or a place the dog can only go with permission from a family member.

These tasks may only be needed if your dog tends to exert dominance over the human members of the family. If your dog is already at the bottom of the pack order, you may not need to concern yourself too much with many of these.  But if you plan on allowing things such as the dog being on the furniture, don’t change your mind after the baby arrives.  Implement necessary changes before the baby comes.

When the baby comes, allow your dog near the baby only during supervised sessions. Make these moments pleasant for the dog so that the dog learns to associate the baby with good things. By always keeping your baby away from the dog, the dog may develop a negative view of the baby because the baby causes the dog to be shunned from the family.

For many other great tips for preparing your dog for a baby, visit


One Response to “How to Help Your Dog Prepare for a New Baby”

  1. Eliza J Says:

    I wish I had read this before I had my baby. My dog took a really long time getting used to the baby. I felt really bad for him in the beginning. But he finally adjusted – thank goodness!

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