The last part I'm going to talk about in terms of the physical environment is introducing your dog to the new sights and obstacles that will become part of your home. One of the biggest physical changes in most households is the introduction of baby furniture. Sometimes this will be mostly confined to one bedroom, but oftentimes, especially in small city apartments, there are changes throughout the home. In our apartment (~950 sq. ft.), furniture was rearranged everywhere to accommodate our first son when he was born. Besides the “office” being converted to a baby room, we added a Pack ‘n’ Play to the living room, a swing near the dinner table, and, eventually, a playpen in the middle of the apartment. If all of these changes had happened at once, I think Beskow (our more anxious dog) would have had a heart attack!
- FurnitureThere is not much training around the furniture, assuming your dog does not jump up on the crib or changing table (if they do, make sure you work with a trainer to change this behavior), but do set it up ahead of time. That way the dog can get used to it being around, and by the time the baby arrives, the excitement of new “stuff” will have diminished. Here is a list of the biggest common additions:
- Changing Table
- Diaper genie
- Pack ‘n’ Play – Special Note: We had a Pack ‘n’ Play in our living room so we had somewhere safe to put the baby down if we had to leave the room, even for a moment. Remember- NEVER, ever leave the baby on the floor with the dog in the room. For us, the Pack ‘n’ Play was an easy solution to provide a safe play space for our newborn.
- BarriersAlso before the baby is born, you should get your dog acclimated to being blocked from certain parts of the house. We set up baby gates between the kitchen and the rest of the house, and at the entrance to our baby’s room. This way we could be in either of those places, with the baby on the floor, without the dogs being underfoot. Our dogs were not used to being closed out of places where we were working or hanging out, so it was good to get them used to the experience before it could be paired (in their minds) with the baby getting attention. Weeks before the baby arrived, they got over whining and pawing at the gates and just found somewhere else to lie down.
Our dogs were also not used to being crated when we were at home and awake. They were used to being crated when we were not home and occasionally at night, but not when we were home during the day. They really like their crates and will hang out in them when the doors are open, but being crated when we were home watching TV or entertaining visitors was NOT something they were used to doing. So, we had to practice before the baby arrived. I highly recommend it, because that way you won’t have to deal with them whining or barking at you for attention once you are also dealing with an infant. (If your dog isn’t already crate trained, a trainer can help if you’re not sure how to go about it.) If your dog likes their crate, they’re likely to get over this relatively quickly. This was also our go-to solution when we brought in a babysitter. Until we had a regular babysitter who knew our baby, our dogs, and our rules about the dogs around the baby very well, we always crated the dogs if we weren’t there to monitor them.