It's never too early to start adjusting your German Shepherd to the idea of bringing home his or her future best friend. In fact, don't be surprised if your pup seems to pick up on your pregnancy even before you. Do you notice your GSD being ultra clingy, perhaps even a little protective over you? That's his or her way of making it clear that they can sense the changes in your body chemistry.
If you plan to allow your German Shepherd into your baby's nursery, start by doing so as soon as you find out you're expecting. This gives you the chance to build proper nursery etiquette, like teaching your GSD a "relax" command so that he knows when he's in the nursery, all that's on the agenda is being calm and (mostly) quiet. Doing this allows you and your Shepherd to continue spending time together months down the road while you're feeding or rocking your little one -- without your GSD getting too hyper or expecting it to be a play session. Another suggestion would be to play sounds of babies crying (Thank you Youtube!) to ease your GSD into big siblinghood.
Let your GSD be part of the pregnancy progress. As soon as you start feeling those little kicks and flutters, call your dog over and draw their attention to your tummy. It may seem silly showing your stomach to your pup but remember, dogs understand biology and hormones. Even if he or she doesn't appear to react to the new life wiggling inside of you, they still understand much more than we humans realize.
Make changes to your sleeping arrangements as soon as possible. If you know that you're going to co-sleep with your baby and can't have eighty pounds of muscle added to the bed, start working early on your pregnancy to change habits and routines. Get your pup a new bed that you can place right next to yours and start encouraging them to utilize it. If your GSD hops onto your bed, redirect them to theirs, and keep treats close by to offer them a reward for using their new place. Start this training process early on in your pregnancy, so your German Shepherd doesn't feel like the new baby is essentially kicking him out of his bed.
Add a self-propelling vacuum to your registry! It may seem like a silly thing to request for a baby shower gift, but let's be real - the amount of love our shepherds give us is nothing compared to the amount of hair they decide to leave all over our homes. New mom, you do not need to waste that precious energy chasing doggy fur. And you don't want to risk becoming frustrated at your dog for something they can't help. Add a Roomba to your must-have baby items, and save yourself that added bit of frustration.
Bringing The Baby Home
You've planned, you've prepared, and now it's time for the real deal. How this starts will depend on your individual dog's temperament.
Is your German Shepherd a bit older, less rowdy, and has shown that they can be gentle around fragile things or small animals? If so, you may be able to introduce the two reasonably quickly. Show your GSD either a blanket or piece of clothing from the hospital, allow them to smell it, then allow them to sniff inside your baby's carrier. Don't take your baby out yet - they are safer tucked inside their car seat than in your arms.
If your GSD is younger and a little wilder, have your spouse put your pup on a leash before proceeding to let him or her sniff at the newborn. You want to have some sort of control in case you need to separate human baby and fur baby. Continue introducing your pup using this leash method until the novelty has worn off and their investigative tendencies don't result in a nose bopping too hard at their new buddy.
Safety, safety, safety! Remember, your GSD is still a dog. It's your responsibility to keep both your pup and your baby safe. Don't leave your newborn lying on a piece of furniture that your Shepherd has every right to believe they should be allowed to jump on, or on the rug that your eighty-pound BFF often runs over.
Adjusting To Life With a Fur and Human Baby
Remember those days filled with long walks, romping through the trees, and constant attention? Your GSD doesn't understand that your time, patience, sleep, and so on are now compromised. Don't let your dog's need to be physically and mentally stimulated get ignored because a German Shepherd with too much pent up energy will end up being destructive. Make time to take your pup for walks, which is also a great time to put your brand new stroller to use. If you're finding it impossible to get your GSD's requirements met at first, look around on sources like Rover.com to hire a dog walker. Remember, your dog is a living creature, not a toy that can be put away when you're too busy.
Have you ever witnessed puppies playing with one another? If so, you'll have noticed that when one of their siblings does something they don't appreciate, they nip at one another. Though your little one may not yet be crawling or walking, you need to work on establishing pack order within your family early on. Make sure your German Shepherd understands this new baby is not a littermate and that he or she is above them in the hierarchy by doing a few things:
Never allow your dog to jump on you with your baby in your arms or to jump on the baby's car seat, high chair, or any other item that they're in.
Make your GSD patiently sit and wait while you take the baby out of their crib in the morning or after naps. Be prepared with treats in your pocket to reward your dog for sitting politely while you tend to the little one.
When it's breakfast time, pour your pup's bowl of food and make them sit and wait until you begin feeding the baby. Once your baby begins eating, your Shepherd can then start.
If your dog shows any behavior toward your baby that you aren't comfortable with, correct that behavior immediately, just as a mama dog would.
Apart from taking steps to position your baby in the pack, continue reminding your dog that you are the leader. Simple ways of doing that are practicing obedience commands, telling them to wait before going through doors, and quickly correcting unwanted behavior.
A few more tips:
If your dog is crate trained, move their crate into an easily accessible area to have a safe location to go.
If your dog is not crate trained, you'll want to do so as soon as you can as it creates a den for your GSD. (See the Good Vibe GSD article on crate training here)
If you are experiencing any behavioral or aggression issues with your German Shepherd, research local trainers and get to work immediately on learning how to better communicate with, and educate your dog. A small problem is much easier to handle when it's still small.
Remember, your German Shepherd Dog is experiencing a lot of changes. They need understanding and patience from you. It's your job to reward their good behavior and work on correcting their bad behavior. The GSD is one of the most loyal and loving breeds imaginable, and given the right tools will eventually be your baby's best friend and protector.
Welcome to the Pack!
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