Are you worried that it’s too late to prepare your dog for the arrival of your little one? Well you’re certainly not alone. In this episode, we Mike tackles this question and will give you some encouraging insights and tactics.
Episode Blog Post
Morgan: Last week, we covered a great question: what are some of the warning signs to let me know I should be concerned?
And I’m not going to recapitulate all of them, because Mike actually hit on about five or six, and went into some depth. And so, if you want to listen to that, I encourage you to go back and listen to last week’s show, Episode 3.
Is It Too Late To Prepare My Dog For My Baby?
This week, we’re going to dive right in. Mike, the question for this week is: “I’m due in three weeks, and have not even thought about my dog. Is it too late to get her ready?”
Mike: No. It’s hard to say given any individual dog but, in general, the answer has to be no – because if I say yes, what are you going to do? Get rid of the dog?
No. But obviously the more time one has the better. Obviously – you can think about it more, you can plan more. But everybody has to work with what they’ve got the day they realize: “Oh my God, I haven’t even thought about the dog.”
So, if you’re that short a ways out, the most critical things to think about are: how is your routine going to change after the baby shows up? And how is that change in your routine going to impact the dog?
Especially, think about how much it’s going to impact the dog in a way the dog is not going to particularly like – fewer walks to the park, less attention from mom and dad, maybe not sleeping in bed with you any more.
Whatever it is – I would immediately jump on whatever those changes are, and make those changes now.
Now Is the Time To Act!
So, if you’re not going to be able to take your dog for a walk to the park as often, then stop doing it now. If you’re going to have to get the dog out of the bed, or out of your bedroom, do it now.
Do all those things now, so that your dog cannot associate those changes with the arrival of the baby – because it will.
Dogs are very sensitive, social creatures, and sometimes people think: “Well, they’re not smart enough for that.” Oh yes, they are. They are very, very, very sensitive to social issues.
Get A Dog Walker
The other thing is: if you’ve got a dog walker – or if you don’t have a dog walker, even – it would be a good idea to get one. It would be a good idea to get somebody to manage your dog through this transition.
That’s something I would start right away: get the dog out of the house, get it exercised. Again, if you’ve got three weeks, do it right away. And then have that walker continue to come, throughout the transition.
Because I have found, obviously, that moms are overwhelmed when the baby first lands: they’re sleep-deprived, they’re up every two hours to feed. And sometimes, just having the dog in the way is annoying.
So, I encourage people to get a dog walker, or find a day-care – again, as soon as possible before you start putting your dog there. And then for six to eight weeks after, continue to have the dog walker take the dog out, maybe even for double walks.
Basically just to get the dog out of your hair, and to bring them home exhausted, and so that they’re getting exercise, outings, etcetera.
And it can help to ride that transition out. I think those are probably the big ones, right there, if you don’t have a lot of time. And it’s not too late to do the rest of the program.
Morgan: So, two things, there. One is a kind of guilt by association: you’re trying to pre-empt the dog associating what he or she is going to perceive as some really negative changes in her life with the arrival of this baby.
So, that’s the first thing. And your second point is that you can do this by making the changes right now. So, even if you’re going to have the baby in three weeks, make them right now.
You basically can’t do it soon enough. And the advice you gave here is similar to the advice you gave in the initial episode, context-wise. Like, the question is still: “How do I start? Where do I even begin?” You’re giving some similar advice, but it sounds to me like what’s different, in this, is the urgency.
Pre-empting Negative Associations Early
Mike: Definitely, yes – you’ve got three weeks. That’s pretty urgent.
Because when you’re within three weeks of a due date, you could have the baby tomorrow. Everything gets very squishy around that time.
So, yes – I think the main thing is just making sure that the dog doesn’t associate those changes with the arrival of the baby.
That’s the number one, big thing that you have to consider – because they will. And I’ve seen it many, many times.
And then you have to just go through the rest of the program. Are there issues that you’re worried about with your dog? Work with them – you still have time.
Because, really, the critical threshold – and I’ve said this in previous posts, also – is eight months, when the baby starts to crawl and become mobile. That is when we find out whether we missed big things.
So, for the first two or three weeks, mom is overwhelmed, and really all she can think about is the baby. But still, you have time.
So if you find that there are flashpoints, or anything weird – the whole program in my book, the whole program in my video courses, stresses that it’s not too late: you still have time.
And I always say to people: in the best of all possible worlds, you would have 17 months to prepare: from the day that you find out you’re pregnant to the day that you have a baby. So, even if you’re three weeks out, you still have eight months and three weeks.
Morgan: Until they start crawling, yes.
Mike: Until they start crawling, which is when everything gets a little more up in the air. That’s when, if there are flashpoints, they’re going to start turning up.
Morgan: When you’re advising people, or coaching people with this, do you sit down and encourage them to start making a list right now of the behaviors that are going to have to change for your dog?
Mike: Yes – a list is great, because that forces you to just think through and bulletize it. And once you’ve got a bullet list, you can tackle it. That’s the way I do most things.
But the basic message is: more time is always better – but we have what we have. So you’re going to have to work within that context. It just means that if you’ve got less time, you have to compress a lot of things into a shorter timeframe.
Managing Competing Demands For Attention
But that pointer about getting some help managing the dog, in the form of a dog walker or a doggy day-care, takes an enormous burden off mom.
Even if the dog is already going out on dog walks, I tell people: three weeks before, double it up. The money that you spend on doing that is worth it.
The fact that your dog’s not there a lot – and that when he gets back he’s tired and exhausted, and will be more or less happy to go to sleep – takes an enormous burden off mom. And also, when the dog’s exhausted, he’s just a little less conscious of all the other stuff – because all he wants to do is just go pass out on his bed, right?
Morgan: Yes – eat and sleep.
Mike: Yes – so get some help, man. You know, we get help for so many other things when we’re pregnant and when the baby arrives – we have nannies, we have au pairs, we have doulas and midwives, and all kinds of stuff. Get a little help for your dog.
Morgan: Yes. I don’t think my wife went out of the apartment for at least a week after we were pregnant – sorry, after she gave birth. She always corrects me when I say that!
Mike: I always love that – when guys say: “We’re pregnant.” It’s like: “I don’t know – you look just the same as you always did!”
Morgan: I know – and it just pops out, you know? And she’s like: “No, I’m pregnant.” But yes, she was in the house for a week after she gave birth.
And the burden is mostly going to fall on mom – unless your partner is also taking time off, which is increasingly the case these days, but often I’ve had friends who take a week. Some guys take a month, and that’s great – but, in most cases, like you’re saying, that burden is going to fall to mom.
And, in a lot of cases, maybe she’s had surgery – as you know, you come out of that episode having suffered a major physical trauma. I mean, childbirth – from this side – appears to be a serious trauma. And you’re not going to want to go out and walk the dog.
Mike: No, you can’t. When my sister had her baby, they had to do an emergency C-section because he was breech. On the spot, they just said: “No, we’ve got to get him out, no more time – boom.” And then she could barely walk across the room for six weeks.
Morgan: Yes, right.
Mike: I remember, back in those days people used to talk about C-sections like it was nothing, like opening a zipper and taking the baby out! And then I saw her – she could barely move.
Certainly for the first few weeks – I don’t know how she managed to take care of her baby. And if you’ve got a dog there, ploughing around the house, antsy because now he’s not getting out, it just makes your life a living hell.
So, I strongly advocate getting help with the dog – just get him out of your hair until you’re ready to dig in again, a little bit. And then you can look at the rest of the program, and whatever else you’ve got.
But for that period, that first two, three, four weeks, whatever, I think mom should just be focused on baby, and the dog should be managed elsewhere, if possible.
Morgan: Yes, that totally makes sense. And everyone, if you’re wondering what Mike’s referring to when he’s talking about the program – he’s talking about the program in his book, Good Dog, Happy Baby.
And in it he really lays out a full program for how to deal with this, the Doggy Twelve-Step Program. And you can learn more about that over at gooddoghappybaby.com. And also, it’s woven into his course, Good Dog, Happy Baby, which also you can check out over at gooddoghappybaby.com.
Mike, do you just want to say a few words, just a few-sentence summary, of the program you’re referring to?
Mike: Yes – like I said, there’s a little Doggy Twelve-Step program in there, which is basically a way to introduce – reintroduce – structure and control into the dog’s life. And then, there are a lot of helpful hints to integrate dog and baby, once the baby arrives.
You know, making sure that the dog has a lot of positive associations with the child, and that you can integrate those associations very easily into raising the baby.
As an aside, I got a couple of text messages last night and this morning from a former client of mine who is just having a baby now.
So I’m out here in the San Francisco Bay Area, and there’s a big place called the CPMC – it’s the California Pacific Medical Center. She’s taking a baby prep course there, and they’re promoting my course.
I didn’t even know about it, I just found out last night. She texted me like: “Oh, they’re all over your book, and promoting it to all the expecting parents there.”
Mike: This major Bay Area medical center – so I was pretty stoked about that. And, obviously, it’s a little bit of a plug, but also it just lets people know that this is an effective program to help them.
And there’s really not much else out there like it, which is why I produced it in the first place. And it’s nice to see that people are picking it up.
Morgan: Yes. So, folks, definitely check out the course, and check out the book. All of that is over at gooddoghappybaby.com. Mike, is there anything else you want to say on this question of “Is it too late to prepare my dog for my baby? We’re ready to wrap up, here.
Mike: No – just that: wherever you find yourself when you consider these things, dive in. That’s all I can say – and just do it as whole-heartedly as you can.
Morgan: Great. And, folks, if you have a question for Mike, please don’t hesitate to write to us. And you can do that right on the website – there’s a contact form.
Just submit your question, and we’ll actually field it on this podcast. And then, pretty soon, we’ll also have a widget where you can record your question.
We’ll take your recording, put it on the podcast, and then Mike will answer it. So, we’ll start doing that in subsequent episodes – so please, let us know if you have questions, give us feedback, anything.