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How We’re Preparing Our Pups for Baby

See the update to this post right here, our experience after the stork arrived.

A while ago, we shared on Instagram that we’ve been working hard to prepare Jack and CC for the upcoming arrival of the newest littleSo many of you left comments and messages with your own helpful tips, and we’ve been taking notes ever since! We also had a handful of requests to share what we’re doing to set their expectations, and while our experience is unique to us based on our specific needs, we’re glad to dive further into what we’ve been doing, how they’ve been responding and further the conversation with all of you. It’s no secret that our pups (and Libby!) clearly rule this roost, and they’re the lights of our lives on a level that cannot be considered normal (and we’re A-okay with that). Our goal is to always, always, always set them up for success, which is why we’re mindful to enforce rules around the home; the systems we’ve put in place thus far work for our family and keep everyone feeling safe, comfortable and happy.

rug | ottoman | sectional | throw

But! When it comes to a baby, we are by no means experts on the topic, which is why we hired a trainer that specializes in child and pet adaptation. Here’s how that worked: We received a recommendation from our friends who had their first baby last year – and also have two Pitties! – to set up an in-home training session. For our Chicago friends, they (and subsequently, we) worked with Rendy from Anything is Pawzible. Rendy came to our home for an hour and a half to meet Jack and CC and talk through any worries we might have. She answered our countless questions, watched how we interacted with our pets and she talked us through a list of action items. The next day, she emailed us a neat, tidy packet that outlined our meeting, including our homework. This is where the real work began!

Homework 1 | Greet Friends + Family

Let’s just get this out there – Jack and CC love meeting new people, and their overexcitement has always been a struggle when we welcome visitors into our home. This is especially true with Jack, who is incapable of greeting people without jumping on them, which is a definite no-no with his large size. Along the same lines, toddlers make Jack especially anxious, as he wants nothing more than to give them a good, strong sniff from head to toe. This, in turn, terrifies parents, and so we begin the vicious cycle of completely separating him from littles and he loses his mind – yelping and crying from behind a closed door – until the family leaves. (Maybe not surprisingly, CC is a complete angel and is therefore out and about, sashaying around the home with her nose in the air.)

We knew this would be an even bigger problem after the baby is born, as we’ll have more visitors coming and going than ever! For this reason, we’ve been practicing a new way to greet visitors, and it looks like this:

Their safe zone is the nook off our living room, which is only a few steps away from our front door. Scott will knock on the door or ring the bell, and I’ll have them ‘go home,’ rewarding them with high value treats as they sit and stay. (We use these training rewards, and both dogs love them!) As guests enter the home, we continue to give treats as long as they continue to stay, and only after we’re all settled into the home do we release them for good behavior.

After the initial excitement of new people in the house, Jack is typically pretty calm. He’s been doing really good, so much so, that our guests have complimented the change in his reactions and good behavior! Even still, this is our biggest challenge and the one we’re practicing the most.

Homework 2 | Work On Blanket Boundaries

The floors in our home belong to Jack and CC; they’re free to roam where ever they wish, as long as they allow Libby to have free reign of the furniture and they keep their paws on the ground. However, they’ll need to know their limits once we introduce a baby into the mix! For this exercise, we lay a blanket on the floor, and we’re teaching them the command not yours. Their paws are not allowed to touch the blanket, and as long as they keep their bodies off of the enticing hot lava, they’re rewarded with treats. We’re still in the beginning stages of this command, but a handful of minutes every day-ish is already making a big difference.

quilt | rug (similar) | ottoman | sofa | sconceplanter | X pillow | velvet pillows

Homework 3 | Introduce the Bassinet

Where do the dogs sleep? This was one of the first questions Rendy asked us. Both dogs sleep in our bedroom with us, and for that reason, she stressed the importance of setting up the bassinet right now, giving our buddies time to get used to the change. After several friends recommended the Rock ‘n Play, we picked up this one to use for the first several weeks before transitioning her into the nursery. Maybe it’s because we’re always switching things up around the house, but luckily, the dogs could have cared less. Change shmange.

sconce | stool | mirror | laundry room

Homework 4 | Take (More) Frequent Walks

It’s been way too easy to let the dogs go potty in the backyard gravel pits, and although we do still take them on walks, Rendy told us that more frequent – even shorter – walks were better than less frequent long strolls. It makes all the sense in the world, but by removing them from their fish bowl, so to speak, they’re more likely to become desensitized to sudden noises and distractions while also creating much needed social stimulation. Done and done (and we’re all happier for it)!

leashes | collars

Homework 5 | Set Them Up for Car Expectations

With the addition of Tree House in our lives, they’ve been getting treated to more car rides than ever! As a result, we spent a few weeks this late summer determining the safest options for ride alongs with them in tow – especially since we’ll soon be adding a carseat to the mix. While these tangle-free tethers have been a game changer for our fidgety pups, we knew we needed to ultimately separate them from the baby completely. We finally broke down and purchased this gate guard made for our model of vehicle, and oh my goodness, it has changed everything. We use it in conjunction with the tethers, and although being in the way back of the car was difficult for CC at first, they’ve had time to adjust and are doing great (despite what her face may say, below, ha!).

Homework 6 | Allow Them to ‘Help’ Us

This was a suggestion from a reader, and it’s been one of our favorites to practice! Essentially, when we work on updates in the nursery, we allow them to ‘help’ us. We say, Thank you for helping us install the curtains (paint the closet, build the bookshelf, dress the crib) in your puppy’s new room! We don’t want this room to be a mystery to them, which only creates more curiosity and anxious feelings. Instead, we invite them to lend a paw, and they absolutely love it. We allow them to sniff the freshly laundered clothes and roll on the rug, but we’re quick to say not yours should they pick up a building block or stuffed toy.

rug | curtains | curtain rod + clips | pendant light

Rendy’s list of action items included a handful of small, everyday things we could do as well, all of which the pups have responded to with not a care in the world. For example: We’ve played YouTube clips of babies crying while swaying our arms back and forth and we’ve gently pulled on their ears and tails. They’ve been completely tolerant of these practices, as their focus has been more on the reward-heavy homework (of course!).

The time investment we’ve put in has us hoping for a more seamless transition for the entire family, especially when we’ll likely be in a hazy fog those first few weeks after meeting our girl! We’ve also found this blog series to be extremely helpful, as well as this Instagram account (so many great videos!). What are other things you’ve done that has worked for your growing families?

PS! See the update to this post right here, our experience after the stork arrived.

PPS! Items from our home can always be found on the Shop Our House page, including wall colors. 

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  • Cheryl12.14.17 - 6:16 AM

    When our first daughter was born we had a rescue pup that was skittish around new people. Our pup loved to lay on the landing of the stairs going up to the second floor so when she began to crawl we taught him to go there when he had had enough of her and her that when he was there he was off limits. It will be awhile before that happens in your life, but something to think about! Congratulations!ReplyCancel

  • stephanie scherer12.14.17 - 7:12 AM

    great post! Im a dog mama in the early stages of introducing my pup to my partners children from a previous marriage, and even with the age difference, this was helpful to read. thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Michelle | Birds of Berwick12.14.17 - 7:15 AM

    These tips are so helpful even if you don’t have kids! We have two dogs and are working so hard on every one of these things just to allow people to enter our house! We’ve got a puggle who is admittedly much harder to train but is easy with everyone. We also rescued a coon hound who is very fearful of new people and turns it into aggression. Through many of these tips and months of work we were able to host people in our house during Thanksgiving and it made us all so much happier and put Bogey much more at ease. That said…small children and babies who are crawling are a “no” and he still manages to terrify them, but it’s a work in progress!ReplyCancel

  • Tricia12.14.17 - 7:30 AM

    Wow, this is wonderful! Such great training tips. Something else that we did was try to teach our crawling daughter that the dog’s bed was off limits. That way the dog knew it was a safe space to take a break. Our daughter wasn’t trained as easily as a dog (lol) but she definitely responded to redirection and praise to leave it alone. My daughter just turned 4 but we have another one on the way so thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

    • Kim12.14.17 - 9:10 AM

      Ooh, great point. That’s going to be equally as important to teach her what’s off limits. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Rebecca12.14.17 - 7:59 AM

    I’m sure you have already read tips about the day you bring home your new baby, but this is what worked well for us with our dogs and cats and with two kids. Take/steal the first hospital newborn blanket she is wrapped in (its the smelliest). Then one of you enter the house first with just the blanket (baby is left in car with someone). Introduce the animals to the blanket smell, then bring in baby. We have found that the dogs quickly understand the new hierarchy and after initial curiosity everyone adapts…except the cats because they are always “in charge”. ps. keep those dirty diapers securely thrown away. Its pretty much the most disgusting thing to clean up- a eaten dirty diaper.ReplyCancel

    • Kim12.14.17 - 9:09 AM

      Yes, we went over that as well! And so true about the cats. :DReplyCancel

  • erin12.14.17 - 7:59 AM

    this is absolutely wonderful! i love that you’re working hard to still have the pets as a part of your lives even when a new baby is coming. i wish more people would do this because pets aren’t something you can just ignore and discard if a new family member comes into your lives.

    Training is so essential, and i think everyone is that much better for it!ReplyCancel

    • Kim12.14.17 - 9:09 AM

      We completely agree, but by far the hardest part is sticking to it! Training only works with a lot of persistence and practice. We don’t want to give anyone the illusion that it’s easy.ReplyCancel

      • Rachel12.14.17 - 11:15 AM

        I always say dog training is fundamentally simple, but not easy. The concepts are simple once you start to think how your dog things, but the implementation and consistency are SOOOO hard! You guys are awesome though and I’m sure the work you’re putting in will pay off big time with happy dogs and kiddo :)ReplyCancel

  • Liz12.14.17 - 8:01 AM

    I love you guys for doing this. Wish all new parents who already have fur kids were as thoughtful and committed as you guys are.ReplyCancel

  • Beret12.14.17 - 9:41 AM

    The Travall gate guard is the BEST thing ever. To anyone wondering, it is worth every penny. I had a cheaper version first and I would have to adjust it every single time we got in and out of the car. Good luck with the training!ReplyCancel

    • Kim12.14.17 - 9:51 AM

      Couldn’t agree more, glad to hear you endorse it as well! We also bought a few less expensive versions of the gate, but CC would ALWAYS find a way to push through the gate and hop into the backseat. This one stays PUT. The dogs are safe, we’re safe, and we’re all traveling in peace (for once!).ReplyCancel

  • Laurel12.14.17 - 9:56 AM

    It is so great that you’re training the pups for the new arrival! Bringing home our son went better than I imagined – we have a mutt who is (we think) a lab/heeler mix so she’s high energy and kind of neurotic. Surprisingly, she didn’t really care when we brought a newborn home. Fast forward two years though, and she “tolerates” the toddler at best. I had visions of the two of them being the best of friends (baby using the dog as a pillow, waiting by the front door together) and it turns out they function more like casual acquaintance roommates. Turns out you can’t force them to love each other!ReplyCancel

  • Taylor12.14.17 - 10:21 AM

    This is so great! Thank you for sharing what you have been doing. Could you explain more how you use the gate guard and the tethers in your car? I think that could work well for us, too, but I’m not sure the best way to tether our pup while she is in the “way” back. Do you have all of the seats folded down?ReplyCancel

    • Kim12.14.17 - 10:27 AM

      Sure thing! Sorry I didn’t get a better photo of it. So the seats are all up like normal, and the gate guard is secured behind the seats (as seen in the product image). We have a Forester, and this is made for our car model/year, so your guard might look different than this. Then we have the tether around one of the headrests in the back seat with TWO leashes (one for each of them), and we clip an end to each of their harnesses so that they have freedom to lay, sit or move around, but they’re also secured in the back. Does that help?ReplyCancel

      • Taylor12.14.17 - 12:11 PM

        Yes! That makes sense. Thank you :)ReplyCancel

  • Amanda12.14.17 - 10:28 AM

    This is so fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing this, as a animal shelter employee and pit bull owner (and potentially getting pregnant soon) this is just one of the greatest things I’ve read all year. If you don’t mind I may take these tips and tricks and compile them into a pamphlet for our adopters to receive, along with other new dog advice. Your pitties are amazing!ReplyCancel

    • Kim12.14.17 - 10:30 AM

      Thanks, Amanda! We love receiving this feedback – our pets are such an important part of the family!ReplyCancel

  • Julia at Home on 129 Acres12.14.17 - 10:35 AM

    Thanks for sharing your experience and tips in so much detail. I love the love and a six foot leash series too. Thanks for the endorsement of the gate guard. That’s a big one on my list. Although it may be more about training me to not feel guilty that the dog is in the “trunk” than it is about the dog.ReplyCancel

    • Kim12.14.17 - 10:44 AM

      I hear you! I had guilt at first, too, but MAN. We’re driving safer without their distractions, and all they do is curl up and sleep. It took CC a little longer to get used to it (she would cry and cry at first, and it broke my heart!), but she’s doing awesome now and just cuddles with Jack.ReplyCancel

  • Lydia12.14.17 - 1:09 PM

    I am so happy you did a post on this! We did some intensive training with our high-energy high-anxiety chocolate lab this summer before our own little girl was born in August. WORTH EVERY PENNY and EVERY ounce of energy we put into it. Our main takeaways: dogs need a safe quiet spot away from babies (don’t we all?). We also were told to NOT introduce dog to baby when we got home, to just let them start to coexist without making it a big deal. It was also really important to do positive reinforcement instead of negative consequences – like praising dog for turning away from baby instead of telling them NO while they smell baby’s head- not wanting to associate baby with anything negative. We were also warned of regression once the baby starts moving, so we’ve got our trainer on standby for when that happens. We also got a lot of puzzle toys to keep him occupied on those crazy days when you just can’t give the dog the attention he needs and they have helped A LOT!

    Good luck! It went better than expected for us and I’m sure it will for you guys, too. Make sure you’ve got lots of cheese sticks and hot dogs ready to go :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim12.14.17 - 1:29 PM

      Lots of great advice here, thank you! Would you mind sharing the puzzle toys you got your dog?ReplyCancel

  • Regine from The 256 Project12.14.17 - 2:16 PM

    This is the exact problem we have with our 3-year-old husky/lab mix!!: Jack and CC love meeting new people, and their overexcitement has always been a struggle when we welcome visitors into our home. This is especially true with Jack, who is incapable of greeting people without jumping on them, which is a definite no-no with his large sizeReplyCancel

  • Nicolette12.14.17 - 2:44 PM

    The flooring change in the nook probably helps them a lot. I have different flooring in my kitchen compared to the rest of my house and have been very successful teaching my eight year old pup to stay out of the kitchen.ReplyCancel

  • carmen12.14.17 - 7:07 PM

    I just loved seeing CC’s face in the car, so cute. It was so cute I had to go show my husband, thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • Melanie Gagner12.15.17 - 9:36 AM

    Good job you guys. We did literally nothing but we have a 15pound cockapoo so the damage she can do is minimal :) Fortunately the transition has been a breeze (we now have a 15 month toddler). The best advice I got was the day we brought her home (we didn’t do the blanket trick) my husband got down on Obi’s level on the floor and let Obi immediately sniff and lick her over – we’ve always let her lay her head on her and sniff her and play with her and have never had a problem. We also put her bed in Aria’s room so she has a place to lay in there. She sleeps with us (and for the first year so did Aria – whole family in the bed) but when I’d go in the nursery to breastfeed Obi would come with to ‘keep watch’. Dogs and babies are just beautiful together. They’re now best friends when Aria’s not busy tormenting poor Obi :)ReplyCancel

  • Marna12.16.17 - 6:41 AM

    Kids and dogs are the perfect combination. You’re doing all the right things. Things will go great; they’re a wonderful breed and very, very baby-oriented. Happy gestating.ReplyCancel

  • Misty12.17.17 - 4:19 PM

    Great advice! A couple days ago I just saw a post on Pinterest about a couple that installed a screen door on their nursery. Apart from looking incredibly charming, it kept the cats out of the room but allowed the room to stay “open”ReplyCancel

  • Jane12.19.17 - 7:28 AM

    I just found this website last night and then I thought of this post. It’s http://www.stopthe77.com and it’s all about preventing dog bites with kids.
    I do NOT think you guys have to really worry about it, and with our Poodle we don’t need to either…but at the same time, I was impressed by their tops and advice and we plan to implement some of it with our toddler right away. It’s good for general rules on how kids should treat animals.
    Thought I’d share since you’re making such a conscious decision to be good pet/human parents!ReplyCancel

  • Megan1.11.18 - 3:18 PM

    I applaud you guys for seeking professional help with this. Too many people have blinders on when it comes to their pets and assume that nothing bad could ever happen. But you really never know, and it’s best to be prepared. Sounds like you guys are doing everything in your power to make this a great transition. Good luck!ReplyCancel

  • […] A clever down-to-earth approach to preparing your dogs for a human pup (aka a baby!) […]ReplyCancel

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