Pregnant with Pets: Preparing Your Pet

-Dr. Katie

Dr. Katie and Dogs

Dr. Katie and her dogs are preparing for a new arrival.  Photo credit of Tiger Paw Photography.  Used with permission.

So for the last 10 years, Fido has been your only “child,” but now it’s time to make room for a new addition of the non-furry type. So what should you do?

My husband and I are now expecting our first baby (a little girl by the way), we are working on preparing our dogs for a new family member. My pets have been featured numerous times in a number of blogs, but here’s an update with my current pet population.

Gary – Gary is a 13 (almost) year old greyhound I adopted to be my companion through veterinary school. He’s very old, and gets a little nervous with new things and loud noises (if they are loud enough for him to actually hear).

Ruby – Ruby is a 25 pound mutt I found abandoned with a litter of puppies 5 years ago. She’s now spayed and used to getting almost all the attention in my house. If she’s not by the food bowl, she’s probably in my lap.

Stevie – Stevie is my blind cat. She’s very easy going, and doesn’t get into too much trouble. She’s been great with children visitors in the past.

The chinchillas – I currently have 2 chinchillas living at home. They are sweet chinchillas, but will still nip at little fingers if they mistake them for treats.
So what changes are going on in my house?
Well one thing is for sure: I’m not considering getting any more animals at the moment. 1 new addition at time is a wise decision.

The routine.
My dogs are on a very well established routine. Working together, Chase and I plan on continuing our pets’ routine. My dogs are immediately let out to potty in the backyard when they wake up, followed by breakfast, and then let out again at noon. When I get home from work, I immediately let them out and then feed dinner. On days with perfect weather and if I get home before the sun sets, I like to take them on a brief walk. My greyhound is so old now that he doesn’t enjoy anything but the shortest of walks. He also can’t tolerate heat or cold. Since most pets thrive on routine, we will work to keep up this routine once baby Darr arrives.
No Free Lunch
In the past, my dogs have received their meals and attention for free. We are working on changing this. Now when it’s time for breakfast, my dogs have to sit (or lay down) before I’ll put food in the bowl. They have to wait for me to give them permission to run for the bowls (“Ok! Breakfast/Dinner time”). Before receiving attention, they have to sit (or lay down politely). We’ve also started working on “get in your bed” as a command for the dogs to go lay in their beds. You could use a room or a crate for this command as well.
Who gets the sofa?
In the past my dogs have had free reign of the sofa no matter who was sitting there. Now if a human being (no matter how tiny) is present, we want our dogs to wait until invited. We are doing this by establishing a command like “up” when we want them on the couch with us. If they get up uninvited, we give the command “down” and gently guide the pet to the floor.

No crazy-dog episodes in the house.
Occasionally, Ruby gets a wild hair and runs through the house like a wild dog. We used to laugh and encourage her. Now, she gets moved outside for her crazy-dog runs! A crazy-dog run could knock over a toddler.

Not time to pamper the dog
We are not pampering the dog before the baby arrives. After all, I don’t want my dogs to expect more attention. I’m actually limiting the attention I give my dogs now, because I want them to be used to more attention being given to the baby. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not neglecting my pets, but I am trying to get them used to receiving less attention.

I’ll probably write a few more blogs on this subject, but for now that’s a glimpse of what we are doing to prepare for baby Darr. One of the biggest points I want to stress is…there is no substitute for training your dog. Chase and I are also licensed foster parents (for human children). Before we ever welcomed the first child into our house, we took an obedience class for our dog. Both of us attended the class. It’s important for all family members who handle a dog to take the class. Choose a class that welcomes children (if you have them) and focuses on positive reinforcement. The other point that I want to stress is NEVER LEAVE A DOG UNATTENDED WITH A CHILD!! Even the best behaved, sweetest, most patient dog has its limits.