Tell your dog you’re pregnant
Over his veterinary career, alumnus Dr Lewis Kirkham has seen many new parents unravel, not just because of the changes that a newborn means for them, but in helping their dog or ‘fur’ child adjust too.
Dr Kirkham and his wife Debra who works at the University of Melbourne’s Vet Hospital have developed the book Tell Your Dog You’re Pregnant to help parents introduce their new baby to the family pet and hopefully build a strong bond between them.
After graduating from the University of Melbourne, Dr Kirkham gained further qualifications in animal behaviour and developed the book with his wife in his spare time.
The birth of his two daughters ignited Dr Kirkham’s passion for educating expectant parents about the smooth transition from a child-free, dog-owning family to a larger family with a new baby.
“As a vet I am very interested in understanding the bond between owners and their pets, so this prompted us to develop a guide to assist in bonding between the dog and a newborn baby,” Dr Kirkham says.
“To many couples the dog is their ‘fur’ child and there are a lot of changes that will occur when a human baby arrives. Preparing the dog early for these changes can help prevent behavioural issues such as house-soiling, aggression, destruction and attention-seeking.”
The book provides a step-by-step guide to prepare a dog for a baby in the house including the latest in animal behavioural psychology to help owners introduce their baby to their pet, read and interpret a dog’s body language and adjust the household to keep the dog calm.
Dr Kirkham has provided advice to many dog-owning couples expecting a baby, and found there was a lack of good quality recordings of baby and toy noises available to prepare pets.
“When our first daughter was born we recorded some of her sounds and then expanded and remastered these sounds to create a CD, which accompanies the book, to familiarise dogs with a range of baby sounds, including squeaky toys, crying, sneezing, giggling and bath splashing,” Debra Kirkham says.
The book also includes information on recognising a dog’s warning signs if it is not adapting to the new family structure and to know when to seek professional assistance for behavioural problems.
BEFORE BABY IS BORN
1. Start preparing early
2. Play different types of baby sounds to your dog
3. Set up realistic routines
4. Create a safe, secure area for your dog
5. Practise sit, stay, come, drop it and go to your mat/bed requests
6. Seek professional help if needed
AFTER BABY IS BORN
1. Take first introductions slowly
2. Make fun things happen for your dog when your baby is present
3. Supervise and separate
4. Stick to your routines