In August, Kermit became a big brother! He has done pretty well in his new role, but during my whole pregnancy I was nervous at how he would adjust. Kermit has been our baby since we adopted him as a puppy almost 4 years ago. He’s been part of our family and he’s helped me adjust to life in Alabama when I first moved down here. I knew our family dynamic would change, but I didn’t want him to “become the dog” and get pushed aside for baby. So we worked hard to get Kermit used to how things would change. I’m definitely not a dog expert, and I urge everyone to enlist professional help, especially if your dog is showing signs of aggression or fear, but here is how our family helped prepare Kermit for his role as big brother, and maybe this will help others who have similar worries.
Practice, practice, practice! As soon as we found out I was pregnant, we knew things would change and we started looking into ways to make the adjustment as smooth as possible for Kermit. What we found was that practicing what it would be like was a good way to get dogs used to a new baby. I started taking Kermit for walks with our stroller to get him comfortable with it. I used lots of treats and praise when he walked next to me and the stroller. I looked pretty ridiculous, and got some odd looks, pushing an empty stroller around the neighborhood, but I figured Kermit’s comfort with our new family situation was more important than me getting some side eye.
We laid down blankets and an activity mat on the ground. I let Kermit sniff it but he wasn’t allowed to walk or to lay on it. I wanted him to practice boundaries around what would be baby’s space. He got lots of treats and praise for laying next to it or walking around it.
As my due date started getting closer, we upped the ante and got an actual baby doll. We put the doll in a rock n play and gave Kerm treats as he gave it a respectable distance. We held the doll as we did training exercises practicing “down,” “place,” “come,” etc. I even found a youtube video of a baby crying and played it while holding the baby and practicing with Kermit. (He must have though we lost our minds!)
When we installed our car seat, we put the doll in it and let Kerm get used to sitting there while we drove. Luckily, my husband had the foresight to hide the doll under the seat when we parked so that no one broke into our car to save the “baby”. (Kermit is used to riding in the backseat in his Sleepy Pod Clickit Sport Utility Harness and it’s the safest way for everyone to travel. We’re glad we already had him used to that before adding a baby to the mix! For more info see my earlier post.)
The biggest thing we did and that I highly recommend everyone do if you’re expecting, is go to a training class. Kermit has been through different training classes over the years, and it has helped us tremendously as dog parents. I knew that a baby would be a big change for him so I wanted him to be the best dog he could be, and I also wanted advice from experts. We enrolled in a six week Impulse Control class and I can’t recommend it enough. More than helping Kermit behave better, it helped us to handle him better. The trainers, Rebecca and Anthony from Love Them, Train Them, are extremely knowledgeable and helpful. We got excellent information, and tips specific to Kermit and to our family. There was a follow up email after every class with videos and advice on how to practice the commands we learned in class at home. Kermit graduated and we felt confident that he was ready for baby.
Four days after we completed training, I gave birth to a baby girl! Kermit has adjusted to our new addition and we love that we can continue to take him out with us and he listens as good as ever. They still aren’t the best of friends, but Kermit respects boundaries near her and she loves to watch him play. I can’t wait to see how their relationship grows!