When family expands, dog needs training

So youíre having a baby. The projects that must be addressed before the baby arrives can seem overwhelming. Paint the nursery, buy baby clothes, line up a diaper service, find a stroller. And donít forget to get your dog ready for the babyís arrival.

Iím sure you have heard you should bring home a blanket or dirty diaper so your dog can become accustomed to the scent of your new baby. Thatís a good idea, but did you know that there are dozens of things you can do to prepare ahead of time? Two areas to consider when preparing your dog for the arrival of a baby are: important training skills and management techniques.

Regardless of how well-behaved your dog is, you probably still will have some training to do and a limited period in which to train. Training your dog to be reliable with just a handful of skills can make all the difference in the world.

Important skills

Controlled walks: Your dog will need to walk calmly while you push a stroller. Start by walking your dog without the stroller as you practice leash manners, and then add the distraction of the stroller once she has learned to walk in a controlled manner. A head halter or a joggerís dog leash may help. A head halter, such as Premierís Gentle Leader, is used like a horse bridle and helps to control pulling on leash. A joggerís leash is a belt, worn by the dog owner, with a bungee leash attached. For safety, there is an emergency quick release between the belt and the leash. This device frees your hands for managing the stroller and can help you maintain your balance if your dog suddenly lurches ahead. The Daisy Runner is an example of this device.

Go to your spot: This command teaches your dog to go to a spot and remain there. This is a very useful command for diaper changes or when you need to place your baby on the floor. Think of placing two or three dog beds in strategic spots throughout the house for your dog to go to when needed.

Leave it: Teach your dog to turn away from items such as dirty diapers, baby bottles or pacifiers on your command. Remember to reward her heavily for complying.

Train your dog to take commands from you while sitting, lying or carrying a bundle. We give most commands while standing, so giving a command while holding the baby at feeding time or sitting on a chair to relax later in the day can confuse your dog. Practice commands from all sorts of different positions.

Management techniques

Baby gates: You can put a baby gate across the nursery doorway to restrict your dog from that room or to block your dog in a room for short periods.

Doggie day care: Doggie day care can give your dog a valuable play day while you spend one-on-one time with your baby.

Environmental enrichments: These are dog toys that can be stuffed with cheese, peanut butter or loose kibble. Your dog must use her wits to empty the device. Dogs need activities, and environmental enrichments can help you direct your dogís energy in positive directions.

Being prepared can be the difference between added stress and a smooth transition into family life for you and your dog. For handouts on environmental enrichments, tips for planning for your new addition and how to train ďgo to your spot,Ē visit www.alphacanineacademy.com.

Julie Winkelman is a certified pet dog trainer and a certified dog trainer. Reach her at www.alphacanineacademy.com.