Couples often choose to test run their parenting skills with a dog prior to beginning their human family. As a Childbirth professional you have an opportunity to share valuable resources and observe interaction with families and their companions. Expecting parents may express to you mixed feelings, questions, or concerns once a baby is on the way. As a certified dog behavior consultant specializing in safety between kids and dogs, I enjoy supporting families as they learn how to safely include their dog into the new family dynamics. The new role of Motherhood is joyous but also can be overwhelming. I believe that preparing families ahead of time is the key to a smooth homecoming and long term bond. Below are answers to the questions I am most frequently asked.
Does my dog know that I am pregnant? Pregnancy brings on many changes for expecting Moms physically and emotionally. Changes in one's scent, posture, and moods are normal parts of pregnancy. Dogs are experts in observing and recognizing these subtle changes. Some dogs are more observant than others and might react to these subtle changes an expecting Mom is experiencing.
What reactions might my dog have to my pregnancy? Reactions can vary from increased attention-seeking behaviors to aggression.
Because of the postural changes in pregnant women, some dogs may view their person as more vulnerable or in need of protection. Women might not walk as steadily and that can be scary for some dogs. It is important to keep in mind that changes in posture and overall appearance can trigger different and unusual responses in some dogs. Hormonal changes also may cause Mom to smell a bit different and this too may bring on a change in behavior for some dogs.
What can I do about any negative reactions I see in my dog? Obedience and leadership play a huge role in keeping the balance during unavoidable changes. Dogs are most comfortable when they know what is expected and exactly what to do. If your dog is demonstrating any negative or uncertain behavior, defer back to your basic commands and structure to provide them with something to do. Practicing basic obedience is essential during time of change and transition. Leadership is also very important. Dogs can relax when they know their humans are in control and can take care of things. If your dog is used to being "pushy" or getting attention on demand then he or she may have a more challenging time adjusting during times you are pre occupied or tired.
It is no secret that pregnancy or the adoption process leads to an emotional roller coaster for all family members including the family dog! Stress that is good or bad takes a toll on energy and mood. This is a great time for families to learn to read their dogs' stress cues and subtle signals. It is also ideal for planning and thinking ahead on how to handle the stressful times once the baby arrives. Planning ahead and learning the subtle body language that dogs offer when stressed is the best way to increase success as the family grows.
Hiring a professional dog behavior consultant or trainer can greatly decrease stress, prevent problems, and eliminate unwanted behaviors that are cropping up.
Five great ways to prepare for life with baby!