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It's no secret that we love our dog, Howie, and that he has been a huge part of our family in the three years that we've had him. As we've made different transitions in our life, we've worked hard to make those transitions easy for him and keep him as happy as possible. When we moved into our house, when we had our first child and now as we prepare for the birth of our second child, we have always kept his needs in mind to help make the transition as routine as possible.
While we're preparing to help Bensen make the adjustment to being a big brother after this baby arrives, we've been doing our best now to help Howie make that adjustment as well. It breaks my heart seeing how anxious he gets the closer we get to my due date and knowing that he doesn't understand my explanation that there's a new baby coming makes that harder. We learned a lot about helping our four-legged best friend adjust to the arrival of a new baby when we added Bensen to our family last year. We've continued to learn and help Howie adjust to all of Bensen's developmental milestones, mobility and overwhelming love for his furry friend. And we hope to make each life transition into our new normal as seamless as possible for him.
Give your dog access to the new baby's space, prepared in advance
Bensen's nursery was far from put together when he was born, mostly because I wasn't planning on him arriving until after finals were over and I'd had a few days to get it organized. Even so, we kept the door to his room open so that Howie could see the changes and get used to the new furniture, toys, blankets, etc. that comes with the addition of a baby.
We're in the same position with baby number two right now. Her room is cleared out and some of her things are in there, but the room isn't organized or put together yet. We don't leave the door open constantly, but we are often in there cleaning and putting stuff together and when we are, we let both Howie and Bensen join us and explore the space.
Bring home an item from the hospital that has the baby's scent on it
This was one of the biggest suggestions that I read when we were preparing to become parents for the first time. We packed a blanket to wrap Bensen in after he was born and Joe brought it home with him the night that he came home to sleep in his own bed. While the blanket was effective, what seemed to really pique Howie's curiosity was the shirt that Joe had been wearing for the first 24 hours of Bensen's life. Joe sat in the chair in Bensen's room so that Howie would associate the smell of the baby with that room, but rather than focusing on the blanket he'd brought with him, Howie sniffed every square inch of Joe's shirt. The next morning when Joe got out of the shower, he found Howie curled up asleep on the shirt, after having pulled it out of the laundry basket.
We will be taking a blanket to the hospital again with this baby, mostly because I don't know if Joe will be coming home for a night before I do and we need something to send home to Howie. We will send the blanket with one of our family members who is checking in on him and have them place it in the baby's room. As I've pulled old blankets and clothes of Bensen's out of storage to prep them for baby girl's arrival, Howie has already been interested in sniffing them and I hope that it triggers something in his memory to help him understand a little better what is going on.
Have mom greet the dog before bringing the new baby into the house
Just as they suggest that you have mom greet a toddler for the first time after giving birth, without the baby in her arms, you want to do the same with your dog. When we brought Bensen home, I came into the house while Joe got him out of the car. I made sure to greet Howie and give him a lot of love and attention. They say that dogs can smell the chemical and hormonal changes when a woman becomes pregnant, and letting Howie adjust to my new smells, as well as the smell of the baby on me, before introducing him to our new family member, was important.
We'll be doing the same thing with our next new little one, being sure that both Howie and Bensen get individual attention and feel loved, not replaced. I will also be sure to put the baby in her bassinet sometimes, rather than cuddling with her constantly, so that Howie and Bensen both get the chance to be close to me without feeling like she comes between us.
Keep the dog's routine as normal as possible
Your dog will remain more healthy and happy through every big transition in life if you can keep their routine as normal as possible. Howie has expectations for when we leave the house, when he goes on a walk, bedtime and so much more. Every morning, before we leave for work, we feed Howie, fill his water dish and give him his "buh-bye" treat. As Bensen has gotten older, we've started getting him involved in the morning routine as well.
Bensen loves to help with Howie's food and loves to splash in his water bowl as well. We recently transitioned Howie to new reformulated Purina Beneful Incredibities with real meat as the first ingredient and no added sugar. The new reformulated recipes were created based on feedback from real pet owners, like ourselves, and are backed by two years of research. The new recipes offer the same great taste and texture that Howie has grown to know and love over the past few years and it's specially made for small dogs like him. We're focused on helping Howie live a happy and healthy life so that he will be a part of our family for years to come. Helping him adjust to the new situations that we face isn't always easy, but watching Howie and Bensen play together and thinking back on how protective and interested Howie was when Bensen was a newborn makes it all worth it.
Dogs can be sensitive to change, as has been apparent to us throughout the different changes in life that we've made with Howie. Whether or not you are currently feeding your dog Beneful, you will want to check out these helpful feeding tips and tricks for how to make the transition to a new food formula smooth. Sign up to receive a free sample of Beneful's new reformulated Originals and Incredibites dry dog food here. You can find reformulated Beneful dry dog food at mass and grocery retailers including Target, Walmart and Regional Grocers like Kroger and Albertsons. I picked mine up on a recent trip to Walmart!
Create a safe space for your dog to call his own
As Bensen has become more mobile, he and Howie have started to have a lot more fun together, but sometimes Howie needs a break and we'll find him hiding out under the crib, under our bed or under the couch. He used to be able to escape to safety outside, climb onto our bed or climb on top of couches, but Bensen is able to access more and more of those places, so his safe places are becoming limited. For this reason, I created a space where Howie can go to escape the chaos and excitement that having kids in the house brings. I purchased a larger sized kennel and a memory foam pillow to go inside. It's become his favorite place to store the toys that he isn't willing to share with his best toddler friend and a comfortable escape when he's looking for a little bit of calm.
Howie will always hold a special place in our hearts and remain an important part of our family structure. We work hard to show our love for him on a daily basis. There are many things that we do regularly to show him how important he is to our lives, no matter what the years bring. Making an effort to help him transition through our life stages and choosing the food that he eats carefully are just a couple of the things that we can do to show him that love.
Have you done anything special to help your four-legged friend make transitions in life?