“Friends suggested that we carry a baby doll around to help prepare our dog for baby. Is this really necessary?”
Great question! This is a very common recommendation and many families feel very silly or uncomfortable with this type of “role play.” Family Paws Parent Education (FPPE) does recommend activities that help parents to learn more about their dog’s responses. We suggest families practice what they want their dog to do in a variety of situations. Here is how and why we recommend this activity.
Suggestions on how to practice.
You can either use a weighted baby doll or use a pillowcase with 5-10 lbs of bagged rice or water bottles. We like it to be baby weight and a bit floppy. This may seem silly but the idea is to role play different situations as you carry your pretend baby and practice desired behavior with your dog.
Here are some things you can learn from this activity.
Will your dog be interested in your “pretend baby?” Jumping? Pawing? Ignoring?
Does he think it is playtime? A game?
Does he grab at your pretend baby?
Does lifting up your “baby” from a carseat or blanket on the floor cause interest or excitement?
How does your dog respond when you talk to the baby in your arms?
Does passing your “baby” to another person cause interest or excitement for your dog?
Does your dog’s interest change when adding a blanket around your “baby?”
Does your dog follow verbal cues while you are sitting? Leaning back on the couch? Talking to baby?
Why is this important?
For your dog, this is a very different picture than you asking them to do something while you are standing and looking at them. For example, most dogs will need to learn that “sit” while you are lying back on the couch holding something is the same as “sit” when you are standing up and holding a treat.
These are just some of the questions that this activity can help you answer as you prepare with your dog for baby. Learning how your dog responds to you in this type of situation allows you to problem solve and practice ahead of time. It is of course important to remember that your dog will likely be more excited or interested in your real baby because babies move, make sounds, and smell different than a pillowcase with water bottles. It is also important to remember that YOU also may respond differently when you hold your newborn. This is just the very basic steps of this activity. There are many games and activities to help families with dogs make this transition into parenthood smoother.
Contact a Family Paws Parent Educator to begin preparing with your pup for life with baby today! Preparing ahead and practicing calm and consistent behaviors before your real baby arrives can save you and your dog from a great deal of stress and frustration moving forward.