Too busy for your dog with a new baby? I can help.

Over the years I have seen a few families get rid of their dog after having a baby. I was shocked in one case and the other times I wasn’t as surprised. The time I was shocked the family was REALLY into their dog. I met them before their little boy was even a glimmer. They took the dog everywhere, and they treated it like gold. After their baby was born they called me in a panic because they just did not realize how much time their little boy was going to take and they thought their dog might not be happy.

They both had very challenging jobs that required long hours. Before their son was born they did not mind the late night walks and the training sessions needed to keep their high energy dog happy and content. After their son was born they were both sleep-deprived and were looking at the reality that they just might not have enough time for everything they needed to do to keep their dog happy and provide the attention their son needed.

After meeting with me a couple times and hearing all the normal suggestions of feeding out of Kongs, using a “nothing for free” strategy, teaching the dog to walk nicely with the stroller so they can walk the dog and the baby, getting dog walkers, etc. they made the decision to give the dog to a child-free relative that could provide more attention. They were devastated and I was shocked that it had come to this.

I really believe they could have worked through the situation, but their minds were made up.

Having a new baby myself, I have a fresh perspective on what they went through. But, I still think they could have made it work. Maybe there are certain situations that might require someone to make the tough decision to find a new home for their dog, I think that families should do everything in their power to keep their dog. Situations that might cause a family to find a new home include aggression by the dog or health issues of a family member that change the mobility of someone. I am sure there are others, but I think there has to be a serious life-changing event to warrant getting rid of a dog.

I don’t think having a baby is enough of a change.

Here are some tips to help you provide your dog with the much-needed time, attention and exercise needed to keep him or her happy and in your home.

  1. Feed out of Kongs or other toys. These provide mental stimulation and activity instead of a few minutes of eating followed by boredom.
  2. Use a “nothing for free” strategy. This is not to be strict, but to remind the person to train more often. Simple exercises such as sitting before going outside, waiting 30 seconds before release to eat dinner, having to look at you before going to say hello to their dog friend outside are all simple ways to increase the amount of training time each day.
  3. Put training times on the calendar. I know that baby times are not always consistent, but everyone can find 15 minutes of time per day to train. Everyone.
  4. Train for dinner. Put the dinner bowl on the counter and do short training sessions while feeding your dog his dinner. If you run out of time, put the rest in a Kong for him to finish.
  5. Work on “Stay”. Stay is a great mental exercise that can really calm a dog down.
  6. Take your dog with you when you take your baby. One person can push the stroller, the other person can hold the leash.
  7. Hide treats around the house. Teach your dog to stay or tether the leash to a doorknob and put 20-30 dried chicken or other treat around the house and then send your dog off to find them. This is a great activity.
  8. Get dog walkers. If you don’t have as much time for your dog, hire dog walkers a few times a week.
  9. Find a responsible kid in the neighborhood to play fetch with your dog. There is probably someone that would love to play with your dog if you just keep an eye out.
  10. Turn the tv off. Everyone needs downtime, yes, but your dog needs you. You can find 15 minutes of time for your dog. You really can.
  11. Get up 15 minutes earlier and go to bed 15 minutes later. I understand sleep deprivation, believe me. We have a collicky baby that used to cry for hours every evening. But, we are talking about a dog that you took in and promised to take care of. You can do it.
I understand first-hand the difficulties and challenges of a newborn. But, I also understand the small things that can make a difference in making a dog happy and content as well. These two things are not mutually exclusive. You can do both, you just have to be smart with your time and think of ways to provide your dog with activity and exercise whenever possible. It will get easier as you get into a natural rhythm.
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