Certified dog trainer Michelle LaMarca Knapp shares her insight on best methods
Introducing your pet to a new family member is a task that can be done effectively, when given the proper strategies and guidance. Certified professional dog trainer Michelle LaMarca Knapp said pet owners need to create a new routine in order for the dog to adjust to the new baby that’s coming.
“If you feed your dog twice a day, say at 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. you should start to vary that a little bit,” LaMarca Knapp said. “They may eat a little earlier one day and a little later for dinner. You need to work up to that so the dog stops anticipating its food at the same time. Same thing with walks, If they have a regular bathroom routine. If you walk the dog, you’re going to have to vary it up or probably think about bringing in a dog walker. Especially in the first few months with a newborn, when life is so unpredictable.”
She suggests getting a dog walker a few months before the baby is due, so that the dog can have time to build up a relationship with the person. If your pet enjoys spending time with other dogs, LaMarca Knapp said dog day care centers are another option to keep pets socialized.
She said there is an important adjustment that has to be made between the parents and the dog.
“Once the baby comes, you’re not going to have the time or the inclination to spend as much time with your dog as your dog is used to,” LaMarca Knapp said. “You don’t want the dog to associate the baby with lack of attention. It’s a good idea to go gradually. Start giving less attention to the dog. If your evenings were spent cuddling, you may want to start ignoring the dog. Have the dog chew a Kong or a marrow bone rather than getting all the attention from you.”
She said certain dog behaviors should be changed in order to accommodate the new member of the family.
“If you have a dog that greets you by jumping, you want to try to teach the dog not to jump,” LaMarca Knapp said. “If you have a dog that likes to cuddle with you on the couch and that’s where you may be sitting with your baby, you may need to teach your dog to get off the couch and go to its place.”
Another strategy LaMarca Knapp suggests is to have the dog be accustomed to the baby’s environment.
“Get the dog acclimated to baby furniture,” she said. “Baby swings, walkers and even rattles. You want to gentle shake the rattle. The aim is to get the dog to ignore it.”
Once the mother gives birth, she said it’s important to bring the baby’s scent into the home too. She said it is supposed to help the dog adjust properly.
“When you’re in the hospital, [get] an item of clothing that has your scent on it and get it on the baby,” LaMarca Knapp said. “Bring that home with your smell and the baby’s smell. Lay them [the clothing] on the floor and introduce it to your dog. Let the dog get used to the scent of the new baby, before the mother comes home with the baby. [This will make] the dog see that it [the baby] is not a stranger, but a familiar scent.”
Every dog is different and will need their own unique routine. She said that all of these strategies will be adjusted differently based on your dog’s specific personality. A proper introduction can take place once the dog has gotten acclimated to the new environment.
“Give the dog opportunities to sniff the baby, even lick the baby on the foot,” she said. “Shower the attention to your dog in the presence of the baby. The dog has got to be conditioned beforehand and know that it’s not going to get the attention that it got beforehand.”
LaMarca Knapp said it’s important that parents introduce baby items to the dog. She encourages it as this helps the dog be more understanding and aware that someone new is coming.
I’d have the dog there when packages arrive,” she said. “I’d have the dog there when there’s any equipment you’re setting up. If you have a stroller before the baby is born, I’d practice on walks. I’d practice having the dog learn to walk at your side with the stroller. You can start that by taking the dog into Petco or PetSmart, and substitute a shopping cart for the stroller. Teach the dog to walk quietly, and when you stop, just have the dog sit.”
She said changing routines and schedules can be done a couple of months before the baby’s due. As for behavior such as jumping, she suggests that once a woman finds out she’s pregnant, the training should begin.
“The sooner the better,” LaMarca Knapp said. “The more they practice, the better they get it.”
Michelle LaMarca Knapp owns and operates her own dog training business called Ain’t Misbehavin’ Canine Academy. She serves the areas of Northeast Queens, Nassau County and western Suffolk County. To learn more about LaMarca Knapp and the training services she provides, visit www.aintmisbehavindogtraining.com/