Congratulations! You just brought home your new bundle of joy and the whole family couldn’t be happier. However, for one furry member of your family, this new addition can be terrifying, annoying, and confusing. These complicated emotions, if not handled properly, can lead to dog depression and a change in behavior for your otherwise upbeat pup.
Now, before you get upset about your pet’s lack of excitement for their new housemate, think of the bigger picture. Major changes in your dog’s life can trigger symptoms of depression, such as relocation or adding another pet to the family. Depression in dogs over the new object of your affection is no different, and the best way to help your pet get over the blues is to understand why they’re suffering and try to include them in the welcoming process.
Why is My Dog Depressed?
When your dog seems sad or depressed after you bring home a baby, it’s likely due to the fact that the household dynamic has changed. If they stop participating in things they once enjoyed, seem sluggish, or stop eating, drinking, or sleeping, they may be going through a bout of depression.
Dogs, just like humans, are prone to jealousy, and if your dog was an only pet or is used to an overwhelming amount of affection, losing the center of attention to a baby may lead to hurt feelings or confusion.
Another reason a baby may lead to dog depression is the introduction of an erratic sleep schedule. Dogs thrive on routine and struggle to adjust to the late night feedings and crying fits that come with the territory of being a new parent.
Speaking of territory, the intrusion of a baby into a dog’s living space can feel like an unwelcome guest, especially if the youngster handles the dog’s toys or crawls into its sleeping space. Unless the dog shows signs of aggression, this antisocial behavior can be rectified with proper lifestyle adjustments and training methods, all of which will help to foster a lifelong friendship between your newborn and your furry companion.
How to Prepare Your Pup for the New Addition
Despite a dog’s penchant for compassion and understanding, they’re not nearly as flexible when it comes to adapting to change. So, in order to prepare your dog for the big change to come, it’s best to have them adapt well before the baby’s arrival.
Here are some tips to prep your dog’s living space for the new addition:
- Redecorate with haste. If you’re planning on rearranging any furniture, it’s best to do so as soon as possible, so that your dog has an ample amount of time to adjust to the new arrangement.
- Prepare them for new smells. Allow your dog to get acclimated to the baby’s room and become accustomed to the strong aromas (i.e. powder, diaper cream) that come along with a newborn. If possible, bring home a blanket from the hospital before the baby’s arrival, so that your dog develops a familiarity before they meet their new friend.
- Introduce them to kids. If they’re not used to children, set up a playdate with young relatives or neighbors, so that they’re prepared for their level of energy and often unpredictable behavior.
- Train them with a baby doll. Introduce a baby doll to your environment, allowing your dog to examine the doll and reprimanding them if they become aggressive or overly excited.
- Establish a “go to place” for the dog. A safe space should be established for the dog to escape and get away when activity is overwhelming. This space can be a crate, bedroom, laundry room, or a dog bed. Train your dog to use this space, but provide a clear command (i.e. “go to your room”) and reward with treats prior to bringing your baby home.
- Keep their sleeping place sacred. If your dog has a special place where they sleep, make it exclusive to them and keep it out of reach of the newborn and other members of the household.
- Hire a dog walker. The first few weeks of your baby’s life will require your full attention. Providing an outlet for your dog to get exercise and receive attention regularly will help give you some reprieve. Have the dog walker come prior to your baby’s arrival so that they get used to a stranger walking them.
- Gradually give your dog less attention. Start preparing your dog by scheduling short sessions of positive play that decrease in frequency over the course of several weeks. This will prevent a dramatic adjustment when the baby comes and becomes the center of attention.
Helping a Toddler to Adjust to a Dog
As the years pass, your toddler’s natural curiosity will help to get them acquainted with the family dog. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that their behavior will be appropriate for the relationship.
Teaching a toddler how to interact with a dog is just as tricky as introducing your furry friend to a newborn baby.
Here are a few things to stress with an inquisitive youngster:
- Petting the dog should be done gently and only when they approach for affection.
- Leave the dog alone if it is sleeping or eating.
- Only play with the dog if a parent is present.
By preparing both your child and your dog for a healthy relationship, you can avoid any bouts of territorial aggression and make dog depression a thing of the past.