Changing one’s lifestyle is a fundamental part of preparing for a new baby. Not only do we have to readjust our diets and our daily habits during pregnancy, but we have to prepare our homes for the new arrival. One of the most difficult questions many parents find themselves asking is: what should we do about our beloved dog? Do we need to keep the baby and dog separated at all times, for example? Or - even worse - will we need to give the dog away permanently?

The answer to these questions, of course, varies. Every situation will be different. However, for the great majority of soon-to-be parents, there’s no reason to give away the family dog. What you need to do is properly prepare your dog for the new arrival and know how to handle your dog once the new baby arrives. In this week’s article, we’re going to offer some expert tips on creating a safe and harmonious environment for both your dog and your baby. Take a look.

Preparing for the New Arrival

- Most likely, your dog is used to getting plenty of attention. When the new baby arrives, however, you won’t be able to give your dog the same amount of attention as usual. He will have to get used to spending more time alone and without constant attention. In order to get him used to this, start leaving your dog alone in his bed during the day, with a chew toy or bone, for short periods of time. Basically, the idea is to get him used to the idea of being on his own.

- When your baby arrives, you will probably want to create seperate spaces for your baby and dog. You will likely want to designate certains rooms - such as the nursery, but potentially other rooms too -  as off-limits for the dog. In order to get your dog used to this, start enforcing these restrictions now. Get your dog used to the idea that certain rooms are off-limits.

- Routines are just as important for dogs as they are for babies. Before your baby arrives, you should already have a fairly established routine with your dog: feeding him at a certain time, walking him at a certain time, and so on. This routine should be one that you’ll continue to keep when your new baby arrives, so as to make the transition as smooth as possible.

- If you plan on walking the dog while pushing your little one’s pram, maybe try get the dog used to this with an empty pram first. Teach your dog not to pull or run away while he walks alongside the pram.

- Start getting your dog used to the new furniture and re-arrangements that will happen. Get him used to the new cot, pram, highchairs and so on by purchasing a good deal in advance of the new arrival.

- Ensure that your dog is up-to-date with all his vaccinations and is entirely healthy and illness-free.

- If your dog does have behavioural issues - such as aggression, nervousness or anything else - make sure to try and resolve these before the baby arrives. Visit specialists in dog behavioural therapy and professional trainers. Consult your vet to get contact information for these specialists.

Now the Baby is Home

- The first - and most important - rule to remember when it comes to babies and dogs is as follows: never leave your baby unattended with a dog! Even if your dog is goodnatured and completely trustworthy, you should never leave your baby alone with him. Your baby might accidentally hurt the dog or anger him in some way, and so it’s very important to be vigilant in this regard.

- Alongside this important rule, it’s important to be cautious about the contact you allow your dog and baby. Dogs - no matter how gentle - can be unpredictable, so it’s important to be extremely careful about any contact between the two. Don’t leave your baby playing on the floor with the dog present - even if you’re in the same room. You can slowly introduce more contact as the baby gets bigger and more sturdy, but keeping the two physically apart is a good idea for very young babies.

- At the same time, your dog will be curious - so let him make some initial investigations and approaches. Remain calm and don’t make a big deal out of this. You want your dog to have positive associations with the baby. During his first introduction to the baby, praise him and make him feel special too.

- Positive reinforcement is better than negative reinforcement. If your dog approaches the baby in the wrong way, or gets a little too close, don’t strike or reprimand the dog. Demonstrate the correct way to interact with the baby and praise him, and reward him when he gets it right.

- Now that the baby is here, finding enough time for your dog is challenging. It’s important, however, that your dog gets enough activity and doesn’t find himself bored for long stretches of the day. A bored dog can get unruly and start misbehaving, which can have impact on the baby. Make sure to set aside enough time to walk and play with the dog, and keep him occupied with chew toys, games and whatever else you have available.

- If your dog starts exhibiting worrying behaviour - such as aggression, nervousness or anything else - consults professionals. Arrange a consultation with specialists in dog behavioural therapy and professional trainers.