Today’s post is relevant for more than just babies. There are lots of reasons you may want to switch up your dog’s daily schedule. I hope my tips make this transition as easy as possible for you and your pooch.
This post is also part of a series on how we’re preparing our dog Baxter for the birth of our first baby. To see all of the posts in this series, click here.
And of course, if you have serious behaviour concerns or special needs when adding a baby to your family, our best advice is to work with a reputable, professional trainer.
How to get my dog used to a new routine – expecting a baby
Like many dogs, Baxter appreciates a routine. However, my understanding of babies is that they’re sometimes not so big on routines—at least initially.
As we prepare for the arrival of our new baby, I’m trying to figure out a daily schedule that will meet both Bax’s and my (and the baby’s) needs.
I want to make sure our new routine is well-established before baby arrives, so none of us are processing too many changes at once.
Our dog’s daily walks before the baby
The biggest adjustment we’ve implemented in our days is moving our morning walk—and some days just doing one walk. I’ve written before about our low energy dog, so eliminating a walk fortunately doesn’t leave us with a hyper canine who is bouncing off the walls.
However, Baxter really does enjoy his walks, so this wasn’t the easiest transition for him.
In our original routine, he and I would head out for a walk first thing in the morning. We’d be out for about 30 minutes and this was also his morning bathroom break and a chance to pee and poo without pressure—we have never asked him to go to the bathroom on command.
After the walk, he’d get his breakfast, then we’d settle in for the day and work. In the late afternoon or early evening, when I finished my work, we’d head out for another 30 minute walk.
This was his second bathroom break of the day. Then my husband would come home, we’d have dinner together, relax for the evening and Bax would get one more quick pee break before bed.
This routine really worked well for all of us, and I loved starting my day with a walk outside. However, thinking about a baby, the morning walk was the one that concerned me. I envisioned trying to get myself and a baby up and moving, while poor Baxter was crossing his legs by the front door.
So after talking things over with my husband, we came up with a new plan.
My husband now takes Baxter out for a pee break before he leaves for work. That way, I know that even if Baxter wants to go out, he doesn’t need to go out.
My husband also feeds Baxter breakfast before he leaves. Then around mid-day, Bax and I go for a walk.
As usual, we’re out for a minimum of 30 minutes, and he can go to the bathroom and sniff as much as he wants. I’m hoping we’ll be able to stick to this routine as much as possible once baby arrives, although the exact timing may shift.
Later in the afternoon we head out again. This can be a brief bathroom break, playing fetch or a proper walk.
After the baby is born, this outing can be handled by my husband when he gets home—or we can trade off baby so that I get some one-on-one time with Bax and my husband gets one-on-one time with the baby, or make it a family outing.
The night pee break before bed doesn’t change.
And in between I hope I’ll be able to find time for other interactions between me, Baxter and the baby, whether it’s training, playing with a toy or just sitting quietly together.
We started this new schedule at the beginning of January, so that we all had plenty of time to get used to it before the baby arrived. And it did take a bit of adjustment.
Baxter had to learn that the early morning outing was just a pee break, and he had to do his business quickly (dude’s not used to working under pressure).
The second day, as soon as I finished eating my breakfast, Bax stationed himself by the front door and stared at my boots—his way of asking to go out. In the end, though, it took just a few days before we settled into our new schedule.
How to get my dog used to a new routine – 4 tips
1. Think carefully about your needs and your dog’s needs.
Because our dog is low energy, I knew he’d be fine with just one walk. If you have a higher energy dog who needs more outings or are concerned about your ability to fit a walk into your new daily reality with a baby, consider engaging a dog walker or friend to help out.
Start working with your dog walker before the baby arrives so that your dog knows what to expect.
2. Make this a team effort.
If more than one person in your household is involved in taking care of your dog, get them on board with the change or at least make sure they’re aware of what you’re trying to do.
My husband and I are both responsible for the baby and Baxter, so figuring out how we can both be involved was important for us.
3. Be consistent.
For the first couple of weeks, stick as close to the new schedule as possible. Make sure this goes for the weekends too. Consistency is really important to help your dog adjust.
4. Ignore behaviour you don’t want.
When Baxter went to the front door and asked to go out before I was ready, I ignored him and continued with my work. Eventually, he gave up and came back to his chair or bed, at which point I petted him, talked to him and thanked him for being so patient.
As I mentioned in my earlier post, one of my baby prep goals for Baxter is happiness. I want to make sure that everyone gets enough care, stimulation and variety to keep them happy.
Thinking in advance about how to do that and setting up the routine to make it happen will hopefully make everything easier once the baby arrives.
Does your dog love a routine? Have you ever tried to change your dog’s routine?
What are your tips for adjusting your dog’s schedule? Let us know in the comments.
Julia Thomson is a blogger at Home on 129 Acres where she writes about her adventures of country living and DIY renovating. She and her husband live on a 129-acre farm in Ontario, Canada. Follow Julia on Twitter here and Instagram here.
My pets are a bit obsessed with routine (guest post from my mom as our pet sitter!)