If you have a special needs dog then you will know that change does not go over well. Routines are important and what’s more disruptive than having a baby? My husband and I knew that we would need to take special care to get our epileptic dog, Oscar ready for the arrival of our baby. As anything, planning and preparation was key.
First, we enrolled our large dog into private classes. Yes, he went through training as a puppy, this was especially important since he was a large breed. However, at the age of almost two he had slipped on a few things and a refresher course was called for. We focused on reemphasizing the basics. I know that once our baby came Oscar would need to obey all commands immediately. Despite what he thought, I wouldn’t need his help with feedings and diaper changes.
Secondly, as a special needs dog we needed to gradually introduce him to new things. We did this by getting the furniture and baby products in a advanced and spread out. This way he wasn’t introduced to everything at once but he had the time to get use to the new items before we introduced our baby into the mix.
He was especially scared of the stroller. When we noticed this, his trainer advised us to put it in the middle of the living room and leave it there for a few days. I even put some treats around it so that he would be encouraged to explore it. After a few days of seeing that the stroller meant him no harm he was no longer uneasy around it.
On the big day, when we brought our baby home we made sure that Oscar felt like he was included in everything. He was on a leash so that he could be kept under control if we needed to calm him down but he was fine. We made a big deal to let him know that this was a new family member for him. By continuing to ensure that he was always included it took only a few days for him to become protective and nurturing towards the baby. When one of us was caring for the baby, the other was spending time with Oscar. We made a point to not allow any room for jealous to set in.
Major change, like bringing home a baby can be traumatic for any dog especially a special needs dog that does require more care. Through planning and preparation this can be a joyful time for both you and your dog. I recently published a series on preparing your dog for change. Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
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