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Overview

There are many things you can do to prepare your dog for life with a new baby. From introducing new gadgets like breast pumps to making sure your dog is taken care of while giving birth at a hospital or birth center, many families experience issues acclimating their dog to a new baby. To troubleshoot these topics and more, I talk to John and Jaime Caponetta. They are experts in dog behavior and have many years of experience training dogs from all backgrounds for many different families. Their focus on positive training techniques will help you modify your dog’s behavior, not just suppress it. Read this article to learn how to prepare your dog for your baby and troubleshoot issues that can come up with your growing family and your dog.

Thank you to John and Jaime Caponetta of Pawsome University for sharing their expertise for this episode.

Jaime has her certification as a K9 trainer from the Animal Behavior College in California and earned the title of Associate Certified K9 Behavior Consultant by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

John Caponetta has seven years of experience working in animal welfare and is a former humane law enforcement officer involved in animal cruelty investigations. He is planning to become a certified instructor in pet first aid & CPR.

Both John and Jamie are on boards or support multiple non-profit organizations that provide dog training to families facing financial hardship or support fostering dogs and keeping them out of shelters or euthanized due to a lack of services. Together these two run Pawsome University, which offers one on one in-home professional dog training using only positive and fear-free training methods. Plus, they have a podcast called Pawsome University. John and Jamie are experts in dog behavior and they have worked with a lot of new parents. They are the perfect resource to troubleshoot some issues that can happen as you are preparing your dog for a new baby and once you bring your baby home to make sure everything goes smoothly.

You can learn more about John and Jaime by visiting the Pawsome University website, listening to their podcast, on YouTube, or connect on Instagram and TikTok.

Transcript and Resources

See the first episode with Jaime and John on Navigating Pregnancy and a New Baby with Your Dog.

Vanessa: Welcome, John and Jamie. Thank you so much for joining me on the podcast. This is the second episode that you guys have joined me. In the last episode, we talked about navigating pregnancy and a new baby with a dog. That covered information like the evidence-based benefits of kids growing up with pets, preparing your dog for a baby, introducing them, and dealing with some training and behavioral issues. Since that episode aired, I know you two have fielded so many questions with listeners of the podcast. A lot of problems or concerns came up that we didn’t touch on in our last conversation. Today, I’m hoping that we can talk about some of the troubleshooting that you have done with expecting and new parents and give listeners some other tools to work with as they are navigating pregnancy and having a new baby and their dog, and making sure that everything’s going smoothly and everybody’s getting along. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast again today.

Jaime: Thank you for having us again. We’re so happy to be back.

John: We have unfinished business.

Vanessa: Exactly. The two of you have been talking to people and fielding so many questions. I know you sent me some common themes that were brought up, and I think we should just kind of run through those things, and you can tell me what you’re experiencing and give some advice.

Jaime: Absolutely.

Introducing Baby Gear to Your Dog

Vanessa: One of the things you brought up, obviously when you’re having a baby, there’s a lot of new things that you’re bringing in your house, like strollers, breast pumps, nursery furniture. You’ve been working with some clients who were having issues introducing these new things to their dog. Can you guys talk a little bit about that?

Jaime: Yeah. I think the number one that really stands out for me, and I’ll say right off the bat that working with you and doing that last podcast and how many new families have come to me that are expecting it has made me better for the new people that are coming in. I can really give them in-depth information on what to do, what not to do, and what to look out for that I didn’t realize before. Obviously, I’m a dog trainer, John and I do a lot of work with our own dogs. They’re really good dogs. Those things didn’t come up for us. There are other dogs, and other people have very different situations that these were not normal things and their dogs reacted very differently than ours did. I think the number one thing that stands out for me right off the bat is when it comes to baby gadgets is the breast pump.

Getting Your Dog Comfortable with a Breast Pump

I had clients come to me, Molly and Frank, their dogs Cusco and Ziva. Loved them. Awesome clients. They worked with me for a very long time. They actually came right when she got pregnant. They wanted to hone in on basic training but also get them ready. On the level of being a dog, they’re just a little bit more innocent. Really go with the flow type dogs, but they weren’t very focused when it came to training. They wanted to focus on that. But that breast pump, when that came in. Mom had a quicker delivery, but it was kind of traumatic a little bit. I think she was emotional, just like any new mom would be. They acknowledged that the second that the baby came home, mom’s emotions changed. She was crying and all normal new mom things. For them, they were like this isn’t normal. And the only thing that’s different here is this baby. They started to kind of pick up on that and focus more so on the baby, I think, with those emotions.

I think it was like the third night. It was the first night that mom had brought out the breast pump because she had been regularly breastfeeding on her own. Then that third night, they decided to bring out the breast pump. They were in the nursery. The baby was in their master bedroom in the bassinet, asleep next to the bed. They were in the nursery. Mom was upset. Dad was trying to help turn on the breast pump. It was the insurance one, which I remember my insurance one was much louder than the Spectra I wound up with. This was a contraption compared to the one that we bought in the store. It literally looked like it was made in the eighties. Then the spectra looked like a new brand new toy. It was very different. They sounded very different from each other. I guess they put on that breast pump, and it sounded really loud. She said it sounded like a plane was landing. And Ziva literally went into the master bedroom, jumped on the bed, and just looked into the bassinet and started growling at the baby. Their hearts sank. They didn’t know what to do. They called me the next day, and we went to work on it.

Ziva is completely understanding that this baby is the change. All these new things came out. The second that this baby came around and they needed to go back to square one. I think my biggest advice here is one breast pump for sure. Take that thing out immediately when you get it after your baby shower, or if you go on your own and you get your stuff. Take these things out—the things that make noise, the things that are big and bulky. Depending on your situation, really think future-wise, what’s going to be different for my dogs with these items? Again, if you’re a new expecting parent, you may not know. I think it’s time to either obviously listen to this podcast, or look at those baby expecting books or talk to friends and family that already have kids. Say, okay, how did your lives change in terms of these contraptions? In terms of these gadgets, what was different? Did your dogs react to anything, or was there a huge change? So you can really grasp how your life changes. Everyone’s life is different with their dogs and their situation, how big their house is, or their schedule. We have to really see how these things fit in. Our dogs associate them with our baby. I think the number one thing here is that we don’t want any negativity to be associated with the baby. The breast pump is the biggest one that stuck out for me.

Vanessa: They’re very noisy. If you have never used one before, it’s a strange sound.

Jaime: I think that insurance one was really loud, and it just spooked her. It did.

Vanessa: Can you run through what you did to get their dog more accustomed to that and comfortable with it?

Positive Attention

Jaime: Yeah. Let’s go into exactly what happened. I did ask dad, what was your first response when this happened? He was like, I feel really bad. I said, don’t feel bad. You’re a new dad, and you had to protect your baby. He did yell at her. I said it’s okay. Not what I would have done in that situation. But again, you’re a new dad. You didn’t know what you were doing, and you got nervous. I said, if it does happen again, we have to try and get her attention in a positive way. She’s looking at that baby. Obviously, your first instinct is to yell and get her away, but that’s not going to help the current situation. That’s not going to help her feelings towards the baby. Getting her attention, getting her to come to you.

I think the first thing we have to do here is to look at our dogs before we have our babies and say, where are they training-wise? Where are their commands? How good are they in terms of just regular day type situations, and how are they in times of stress? That’s what we need to really focus on and take baby steps to get to those times of stress. In this situation, this was a time of stress. She was looking at that baby, and she was like, you are the root of all evil right now with my mom. We needed to kind of snap her out of that situation, but in a positive way, because it can be done. Getting her attention, using that command, telling her that she’s a good girl, and getting her to come to us and getting her obviously away from the baby in a safe manner.

Avoiding Negative Reinforcement

If we yell very similarly, this is how negative reinforcement training kind of works when we use shock callers and stuff like that. It’s like an instant to get them to detach, but it’s not in a positive way. I would never want to, in that instance, use a shock collar to get her away from the baby because she is going to think that shock that pain is because of the baby, exactly like the breast pump. We don’t want to fall into the same trap of just doing over and over again what things are already happening. We want to make it a positive thing. We need to snap them out in a really positive way. Get her attention, have treats involved. If you have a situation like this and your dog hopefully is treat-oriented, that is a really positive thing. If not, you want to up that ante and use more positive treats like string cheese, hot dogs, those types of things that they don’t normally get. Yeah, that’s really where we want to go with that and get her out of that situation. We can then desensitize her and kind of undo the thought that this baby is the problem. Does that make sense?

Vanessa: Yeah, it does definitely. Let’s say you get your breast pump a few weeks before your due date. Do you recommend getting it out, turning it on, and doing some positive reinforcement with your dog?

Jaime: Exactly. Take it out. You let them sniff it, the same thing with anything else. Let’s say you get a dog that’s abused, and it doesn’t want to be leashed up for whatever reason in the past. You want to show that leash and not make it threatening to begin with. Right? You want to let them sniff it, put it on the floor. You’re not wielding it around. You’re not trying to get it on them aggressively or anything like that. Let them take their time with it. Nothing should be forced here at all across the board. Nothing should be forced. That breast pump comes out of the box. Maybe you put it on the ground, and they can sniff it. And you say, good girl, good boy. You give a treat every single time they go near it. You’re just encouraging them. Even if they aren’t wanting to go near it, you’re still encouraging them.

I think the other main thing other than working on just basic training, in general, is to realize that we have to give positive reinforcement across the board, even when they’re struggling, because that’s the time that they need it. We don’t want to fall into that traditional dog training trap. It’s crazy because I truly believe that dogs and kids are very similar. This is also advice from a mom. We want to praise them even when they’re not the winners when they don’t do it perfectly. We still want them to have a really good association with it. The only way that we can do that is if we push them through and we’re not forcing them, and it’s something that they feel really good about, right? If the dog is terrified of the breast pump because it’s this new thing and they’re backing up, and we’re like, no, no, don’t do that, and we’re trying to push them forward. You’re like, oh my God, this is so forced. This is not fun whatsoever. All I’m acknowledging as a dog is that I feel insecure and uncomfortable. The second this thing came out of the box, I have a bad association with it altogether. We need to start from scratch and make these scary things, whether it is the breast pump, the stroller, anything involved that it’s a positive thing. The second this thing came into my life, I got more food, more love, more praise. That’s all we need to do.

Avoiding Traditional Dog Training

Jaime: Don’t fall into the trap of the traditional dog training of reprimanding when they do something wrong and only praising when they do something right. That’s not helpful. We’ll touch on it more later, but something I really wanted to focus on because I don’t think I hit it home in that first episode of how much we want to stray away from traditional dog training when it comes to these types of things.

Vanessa: How much you do want to stray away from that?

Jaime: Yes. We don’t want traditional dog training. We don’t want reprimanding for doing things wrong. I know it sounds crazy, but we’re going to get into that more and really get into the nitty-gritty of that and the reason why and the psychology of it. But I think that’ll truly help parents moving forward of how to really work with their dogs so they can better understand them and not really revert to the training that we’ve been told since the 1970s that is the way to go, and it’s just not anymore.

Positive Reinforcement

Vanessa: Gotcha. Yeah. That’s one of the reasons I love talking to you guys. You have such a focus on positive reinforcement.

Jaime: Yeah. For us, it’s the only way. It really is, especially with our son. I mean, we see it across the board. It’s funny because I’ll use some of my techniques on him, and people are like, oh my God, why are you? That’s like dog training. But it works. He is safe. I don’t have to put up all these baby gates and totally babyproof my house because I give him the platform to do the right thing, and he chooses to do the right thing because I don’t just yell at them all day long. I think dogs and kids are very similar.

Vanessa: For a lot of people, if you have a dog, that is your baby. Right? To make this actionable, let’s say you get your breast pump, bring it out on a couple of different days, positively reinforce your dog with treats and love and that kind of stuff. When do you know, okay, the dog’s comfortable with this, it’s fine, we can move on to the next thing?

Desensitizing Your Dog to New Things

Jaime: I think you take your time with it. Usually, desensitization, depending on your dog, if you have a bomb-proof dog and you bring it out, and the dog is like, whatever. You turn it on, no reaction. You’re pretty much good to go. We just want to make sure that they know the sound beforehand, that there’s no bad reaction towards it. If you have a more fearful dog, you’re going to want to spend more time on it. You know, having it down one or two days without making any noise, then picking it up, putting on the tail or the rocking chair that you’re going to be on if you’re breastfeeding over there in the nursery, bringing it all around the house. I mean, I used that thing pretty much everywhere I went. That’s something that I would suggest. Bring it everywhere you think that you might be where you are comfortable in your house, and then turning it on.

I mean, mine had levels. I’ve only had that one and the insurance one, which I pretty much threw away the second I got it, but it had levels. As you obviously made them pump harder, they sounded more awful. We want to take our time with that and really do it on the slowest setting and then amp it up as we go. They can just get desensitized, and we can counter condition them with positive reinforcement that entire time. We’re saying good boy, good girl. We’re getting excited. I think a good thing to mention here, it’s a little bit off-topic, but being positive and not coddling. Right.

I want to give confidence. I don’t want to tell them yes; there is a reason to be upset. If I say it’s okay, it’s okay, you’re okay, I am agreeing that there is a reason to be upset. I never want to do that. I want to desensitize. There should be no real worry here. If every single time they hear good girl, you’re a good boy. They’re going to be like, oh cool, okay, and they’re just going to go about their business. It’s never going to be a reactionary thing in their brains later on. If we say it’s okay, you’re okay. They’re like, oh my God, but there is a reason to not be okay. We want to make sure that our tone. Again, they don’t speak English, but they know the tone. They know when you’re concerned. They know when you’re excited. I want to be on the ball with being excited rather than being, you know, coddley if that’s even a word.

How to Know When You Can Stop Desensitizing Your Dog to Something New

John: I think Vanessa’s wondering, when do you stop paying? When you know, when can it just be all right?

Jaime: It depends on your dog. I think if you’re questioning it, then you probably still need to keep paying. If you think they don’t care, they’re going in and out of the room. They’re not paying it any mind. You’re good to go to move on to the next object.

Vanessa: Gotcha. I don’t want to make anyone feel overwhelmed. Like you don’t have to do this with every single onesie and every pack of diapers.

John: No, just the big-ticket items. A lot of what we were suggesting is for people who know that their dog is going to be a problem that their dog already has existing anxiety. They’ve already shown some weird behavior towards new things in the house. Right. You know your dog. If your dog has triggers and doesn’t do well with new stimuli, you should be proactive. If your dog is kind of aloof and it is what it is, you don’t need to go crazy with all this stuff.

Jaime: It’s just knowing your dog or your dog has, you know, typical mailman syndrome where they like to bark at every little noise outside. Or if you move too suddenly, or they’re very skittish by sudden movements or by you, your partner, your other dogs, or other animals. Those are the dogs that you want to focus a little bit more on because they’re going to be more susceptible to kind of developing those triggers because you’re coming home from the hospital. There’s a lot of stress involved. Whether it went well or not, you know, it’s just different. You’re bringing in a brand new baby. You’re opening up this gaping hole of anxiety. If we don’t do these things preemptively, they could fall into the wrong section for the dog in terms of how they react in their brains. I want everyone to just if you know your dog may struggle with this, then that’s something to just focus on early on before the baby even gets here. Then we don’t even have that issue once the baby’s home.

What to do with Your Dog When You Go to the Hospital or Birth Center

Vanessa: That makes sense. Thanks for explaining that in a little bit more detail. When we’re talking about bringing a baby home, obviously, you guys have been there. It’s strange to come home with a new baby. Especially if you’ve been at a hospital or birth center with all these people around to help you with everything, then all of a sudden, you’re like, oh, they’re actually going to let us leave and take this baby home. I know that you had some clients or a family that you worked with that had boarded their dog while they were in the hospital. Can you talk a little bit about that experience?

Jaime: Yeah. It’s definitely not my suggestion for sure. I prefer the dog to be home. And this is also for anybody who didn’t listen to the first episode. John and I also own a pet care business. We do dog walking and overnight sitting. We have some independent contractors that work for us. In terms of who I am as a person, I really love dogs being kept in their home. Even if it’s just for a vacation. I just think that they’re more comfortable unless it’s a dog who loves to go to daycare and does not have a care in the world about boarding. I do deal with a lot more anxious dogs that do better being home. For this specific situation, I thoroughly suggest keeping your dog home. Whether you can have one of your parents watch the dog, a friend, family member. Even getting a dog walking company to come and take care of your animals while you’re gone. I’m letting them know the situation. Especially if you have a more, again, a more skittish dog, a more reactionary dog, one that has triggers for them to meet these people prior, be super comfortable with them again.

We’re not all of a sudden like random people are coming in. And then again, mom and dad bring home this brand new baby. Like all these little things are changing. And again, that baby is the common denominator. Often, what happens is and what people do because it on paper seems like a great idea, right? The dog goes somewhere, whether it’s even boarding or going to a friend or family’s house out of their house, it seems great. We’re going to bring the baby home, get into a rhythm, and then we’ll bring the dog in later. Again, what happens is for this dog, they’re like, wow, I’ve been away, and now this baby took over my house, and things are different. Mom and dad aren’t focusing on me. Do you know what I mean? It kind of trickles in that same response that we don’t want. We don’t want any negativity to be associated with the baby. Again, as I said, it does look really good on paper because then we get to have that dog out of the situation. We can focus on the baby, which is our number one concern at this point. But that doesn’t help our dog’s association with our kid.

Vanessa: That definitely makes sense. I know it’s difficult to have an estimated due date, and you have no idea when it will happen. Last time, we covered kind of like actually bringing your baby home into the house and introducing them to your dog so we won’t get into that. Your recommendation there is to keep your dog in the house, have somebody stay with them if possible.

Jaime: Absolutely. Have them have someone come over that they are comfortable with, that they know, that they love. That’s going to make your time with having your baby way more comfortable. And then when you come home, you can take your time with it again.

Introducing Your Dog to Your New Baby

Jaime: As we said in the last episode, you come in having that baby safe in the car seat, and hopefully, they’re asleep and not crying because we don’t want the baby coming in crying but making it super positive. We’re praising the dogs, giving them treats lots of love from the other partner. If you feel more comfortable having more hands, have some grandparents come over. That’s another thing too I wanted to touch on because I think Cusco and Ziva were the two big ones that hit a lot of different nails on the head in terms of what I wanted to talk to today because their dogs were struggling with their baby coming home, the breast pump. Then Cusco wouldn’t go through the baby gates because they put the baby gates up after the baby came home. He was like, these have never been here before. That’s super scary. He’s a little bit more on the skittish side. When their parents came to visit, it broke the ice. It was super helpful for them to have a better association with the baby because they’re like, oh, grandparents are here. I love my grandparents.

John: I’m familiar with this. Exactly.

Jaime: Holly and Frank, they kind of like took a big sigh of relief. They’re like, oh my God, thank God. It was that relief, that resource that came in and broke that for them. And it made the dogs like the baby a lot more because now they’re like, oh, well, grandparents got here—this baby’s kind of cool. You know we have to think of it that way. If you need more hands, do it, don’t wait for something bad to happen. Do this all preemptively. You can just have a really good start to this relationship that’s blooming.

Behavior Modification & the Three Ds

Vanessa: Hypothetically say someone does all the things, they positively reinforce the dog with the breast pump and all the new stuff they’re bringing in. They have someone watch the dog at their house while they’re in the hospital for a few days, and they get home for somebody that still doesn’t feel really comfortable with their dog and baby. Maybe they feel like they just can’t reach that homeostasis, or their dog’s a little stressed out or has some anxiety. Do you have some other advice for that?

Jaime: Yes. Whatever we do in terms of our behavioral modifications, whether the dog doesn’t like kids or doesn’t like men, or doesn’t like other dogs, we want to do it in a way where we’re taking those baby steps to get us there while we’re using a couple of different techniques. We want to do the desensitization, and we want to do counter-conditioning. Treats are always involved, lots of praise, regardless of behavior. But we also want to focus on those three Ds, which are distance, duration, and distraction.

Distance

Distance is, how far is your dog away from your baby? Is it too close? A lot of times, people don’t understand that dogs don’t understand their threshold sometimes. Let’s say a dog doesn’t like a particular person. They’re barking at them. Then they go up close to them, and everyone’s like, why would you do that? That doesn’t make any sense. If you don’t like the person, go away from them. But dogs don’t get that. They don’t understand that their threshold and distance have a lot to do with how they feel. We have to help them with that. If your dog is going up to the baby and it looks concerned, and maybe he doesn’t look super happy, we have to kind of bring them away in a positive way. Again, you can either have your dog on a leash if they’re okay with that. You can talk to them, bring them away, give them something more high value. That’s maybe 20 feet away from the baby rather than being right up on the car seat. We want to give them distance, right?

Duration

Duration is how long we’re practicing for how long is the dog around the baby is, is 20 minutes too long is, you know, 10 minutes, your sweet spot. The dog is around the baby, twenty feet away for ten minutes. Has maybe a mental stimulation, toy, frozen bone frozen Kong, and is just hanging out.

The second that they detach from the Kong or the marrow bone, or even from you and you are your praise, and they start kind of pacing around and really focusing on that baby again, it’s time to kind of shut it down and maybe put them in a room or put the baby in the nursery. We kind of separate for a little bit and give them some time to decompress. And that’s a big thing here. We have to do little baby steps of things and not just submerge them in something that’s going to stress them out again. If they pass that 20-minute mark and they’re pacing around, and they’re feeling negative. That negative feeling is going to be associated with the baby. That’s what we really need to realize is we have to think like our dogs, right? If all of a sudden, the 20-minute mark happens and I start to feel really crappy, I’m going to associate it with the new thing because this has never happened before. I’ve never felt this way when mom and dad were around. Now I need to understand that it’s, it’s because of that baby. That’s the only common denominator. We want to make sure that doesn’t happen. We have to shut it down before anything bad happens. Be proactive, not reactive.

Vanessa: That makes sense. That was distance, duration, and distraction was the other one.

Distraction

Jaime: That distraction is obviously the baby, which is high. Right? If we were looking at this from just a normal dog training situation. Some dogs will react to a squirrel, but it’s not as exciting as a cat or a dog. Right? We take those baby steps to bump up to the things that stress us out. If we look at it from a zero to ten situation, a lot of times, the baby is a ten, or a dog is the 10. We have to work our way up in terms of stress together.

John: Yeah. When you talk about the three D’s, what can I control out of these three Ds? In this case, you can’t control the distraction, but you can control the distance and duration. You kind of play around with those to keep your dog what we call under the threshold, which is where they’re under the point of reacting poorly to the stimuli, which would be the baby. The idea is to keep them under the threshold as much as you can and then bump that threshold up more.

Jaime: I know I said that once before, but we’re never forcing them to go close to the baby if they don’t want to, right. We’re not leashing them and like pulling them close to the baby because we want them to be interested if they’re not. I would rather a dog not be interested than being too interested. We never want to like cross those boundaries of forcing them to do anything. They’re going to do what they’re comfortable with. But if you’re uncomfortable with how close they are to the baby, then you need to do it again in a positive reinforcement way. We don’t want to reprimand them for being close. Right. If they go up to the car seat and you say ah! And you’re like backing them up. They’ll be like, whoa, what’s the matter. Again, they don’t normally get yelled at.

All of a sudden, this baby got here, and now you’re yelling at me. We’re giving them conflicting feelings and responses when it comes to this baby. They’re just going to be utterly confused. We want to be very consistent. Even Molly asked me once, with Cusco and Ziva, she was like, Cusco comes up and smells Cade’s head. What do I do? You tell him he’s a good boy, but don’t shove him away. Before this baby got here, anytime that Cusco came up to you, you never shoved him away. You always cuddled him. Make sure you’re doing the same things. If you are uncomfortable, that would be a good time for Frank to come in and be like, come on, Cusco, let’s go outside. Let’s do pee-pees or let’s go for a walk. Right. We’re disengaging in a positive way. Nothing bad is happening, but we’re still creating that distance if we’re uncomfortable.

Vanessa: Yeah, that makes sense. If you’re thinking about this ahead of time, you can think, oh yeah, no problem. You are taking notes on this episode. You know exactly what to do. But then there is a component of bringing home a new baby. That’s a little bit scary, especially if this is your first baby. Right? Because you just don’t know and everything is new.

Jaime: Also, as a woman, everything hurts. You’re like, I just want to be in my bed. You just want to relax. And it’s like, this is not the number one thing that you want to deal with when you’re coming home with the baby. But that’s why we say like take our time and have extra hands there. If mom does need to go lay down, she doesn’t have to be involved. Everyone’s aware of it. If you do have that dog walker or that grandparent or that friend that’s going to help you. This is something to discuss prior to the baby coming home. We can go over all the options. Maybe mom’s feeling great, and she wants to be involved. Maybe she’s not, and she’s exhausted, and she’s really hurting. She needs to go lay down, and then the other friend needs to take over and be there and do exactly what she would do.

Ask for Help with Your Dog

Vanessa: I think sometimes people have a hard time asking for help with a new baby. Sometimes you’re going to have friends who may not reach out right away because they think I want to give them some time to adjust to the new baby. I encourage everyone. Please ask friends and family for help. People are more than willing to help out. Often I think they just don’t know what to do. Even if you can call up a friend and say, Hey, could you come by this afternoon and just take the dog for a walk. People are more than willing to step in and help out.

Jaime: That I think is another really good thing to do. Just being a parent, in general, is having these friends, family members, dog walkers ready for you. If you are busy with the baby, which is it’s going to happen, we still want to make sure that our dogs are being taken care of. Maybe you tell the dog walker, Hey, we would love the dogs to be walked once a day once the baby comes home, or twice a day. Can you come at these timeframes and kind of help us out? So they’re still getting what they need. They’re still getting that exercise that loves from somebody else that you really, at that moment, can’t give them. I think just setting ourselves up for success and making sure that those things are taken care of when you can’t do it yourself will make you feel less overwhelmed, but it also makes you feel less guilty that you’re not giving your dogs, but you, you can’t right at that moment.

Vanessa: Right, all of your focus is on a new baby.

Jaime: They can’t do it all. There’s only so much of us to go around.

Does Using Dolls and Crying Baby Sounds Really Work to Prepare Your Dog?

Vanessa: After we did our last episode I shared with you, I got a negative review on my podcast that had criticized our conversation because we talked about preparing while you’re still pregnant to bring a baby home. You had suggested using a baby doll and playing some sounds of a baby’s crying just to get your dog accustomed to that. Someone had listened to that episode and said that this advice was questionable and ridiculous. I wanted to address that because I can see that that seems kind of silly. You’re going to buy a fake baby doll. That’s obviously not the same as a real baby. Can we talk a little bit about the mechanisms behind how that works and how that can kind of get your dog accustomed or prepared for a baby?

John: I got this one. Well, first off, sorry about the negative review. If anyone’s unhappy, they can come to our podcast and leave us a review; that’s fine.

Vanessa: No, the reviews are good. Well, hopefully, they are constructive.

Role-Playing with a Baby Doll

John: Props are a tool that allows us to safely assess a dog’s behavior, and we can have a lot of control over the situation. We can assess how they are with the sight, sound, and even the smell of stimuli if you’re able to get the smell involved. It’s long been used in animal behavior and for behavior assessments. For shelters, they’ll use prop babies. There’s something called an assess-a-hand, which is something that we don’t use, but shelters will use it to assess if a dog is going to resource guard. It’s a plastic hand, and they’ll introduce it to a food bowl a dog is eating or towards a resource. Then we’ll assess how the dog reacts to that. We have stuffed dogs that are used in assessments to see how a dog is going to do with other dogs. Another assessment is called the strange-looking woman, where either a person would dress up or a mannequin can be dressed up as a strange-looking woman with sunglasses and a big trench coat. Dogs react very predictably to these props. And that’s why we use a baby. We’ll use sounds because they do work. Not everybody needs to do this. I don’t think that we recommended everybody do it.

Jaime: No, not unless it’s absolutely a necessity. John and I were chatting before we jumped on with you. You don’t have to do this, and it also doesn’t hurt. It being maybe a little bit ridiculous because it’s kind of silly having a doll and you’re playing noises and stuff. Really our number one goal here is to make your dog like your baby. There’s no hurt in trying. It’s not going to have a reverse effect or anything like that. Questionable, I think to do as much as you possibly can to make this a really great relationship there again, no hurt in it.

Playing Baby Crying Sounds

Jaime: The noises I know for a fact absolutely work. They need to get desensitized to certain things. We do this across the board with pretty much anything. John and I actually sleep with thunderstorm sound on because that helps us sleep. We just liked the sound of rain, and we liked the sound of thunder. Our dogs, none of them are afraid of thunder. We didn’t realize at the time when we started putting it on at night that we were desensitizing them. It’s at a low level. When the thunderstorms actually happen, they’re so used to it. They don’t react because it’s, it’s a normal thing for them. If you play baby noises on a very low frequency for weeks at a time, and you just slowly amped up the noise, they wouldn’t really realize that it’s louder as it goes because they just get more and more used to it. Then all of a sudden, this baby shows up, and they’re like, oh, I’ve been hearing this for weeks. I know for a fact that that actually works well.

The baby itself, yeah, maybe a little bit more silly because it obviously isn’t a baby. It doesn’t smell like a baby. If you get ones that talk and make noises and you’re just getting your dog used to holding that baby. The clients that actually had the baby and did it really well, they were very concerned about their one dog because she is very reactionary. She’s very jealous. She is very high-strung. We had other issues that we had to work on, but they wanted to make sure that she was going to be comfortable when this baby showed up. They carried the baby all the time, talked to the baby, and that dog loves that baby now. I won’t know for sure if that actually had anything to do with it, but I’m going to go with yes because it worked for them. I’m happy that it’s a win. You don’t have to do this, but if you think that your dog is going to be reactionary to your baby, it doesn’t hurt to try this out.

John: As far as the mechanics behind it, this is more important for a dog that spends a lot of time being over its threshold. That is already very reactive to things is already stressed out. A very calm dog is going to know that’s not a baby, that’s not alive. A dog that’s over its threshold they aren’t going to think critically. They’re not going to like look deeply into the situation. They’re just going to react, and that’s where you control your distance and your duration. You increase your distance to make you really sell it. A dog over a threshold is going to believe that you have something new and small in your hands, and that’s where it’s useful.

Getting Your Dog Used to You Holding a Baby

Jaime: If you have a dog who is very clingy and maybe has separation anxiety from you, they have to get used to you holding something and not being the center of attention. I think this is something even Oakley, our dog, he is an angel, but he is very attached to me. He doesn’t understand how big he is. Sometimes he’ll lay on you and not realize that he’s crushing you. That was something that we had to work on with him as well because he couldn’t be doing that when I had a newborn in my arms and I was breastfeeding. I needed him to understand that when mommy is doing this, you need to kind of give me a little bit of space. You can still sit next to me, but don’t be so abrasive. That really helped him understand a little bit really where his body lies and be a little bit more self-aware of himself.

I think that was another thing that my clients realized that had this baby doll, and really they were the ones that focused on it. That was something that they needed to really hit home as well because their dog was super attached to the mom, not the one that was actually having the baby, but the other mom. We wanted to make sure that she was going to be okay with really her person holding the new baby. She didn’t really have that because if she was the one having the baby and had all the smells of being pregnant, I think maybe it would have been a little bit different. But because she wasn’t the one pregnant, this was going to be more of a shock to her because there her person wasn’t physically having the baby. I wanted her to be okay with how her mom was holding that baby and be okay with that. It is always situational, but again it’s about your dog.

John: I think it comes down to if you’re the kind of person who finds this training technique, or this counter-conditioning technique to be questionable or ridiculous, then you’re probably fortunate enough to have a dog that this wouldn’t be an issue, that is probably pretty mellow. You don’t really have to worry about bringing your baby home. For a lot of people, this is a very scary time, and they don’t know what fate is for their dog. They’re worried that something’s going to happen. They’re worried that they’re going to either have to rehome or have their dog euthanized. It’s a very real issue for people. It’s just another tool to use to keep yourself safe, your baby safe, and your dog safe.

Jaime: If it’s something that can help, why not?

Vanessa: Exactly. Like you guys said, everything is so situational. When we first talked on the call today, I was saying it’s just so sad to hear stories about families that are having such a difficult time and feel like they have to rehome the dog and feel like they don’t have any options.

Virtual Training

Vanessa: Thank you so much, by the way, for fielding all these questions from listeners of the podcast who reached out to you. I know you guys are offering some virtual training. I do encourage anyone if you feel like maybe you don’t have the most well-trained dog or well-behaved dog. It’s not too late to correct any of these things. Please do reach out to Jamie and John. They are amazing. Some of these issues seem difficult now. Seeing small kids and dogs, when they are interacting together well, is the best thing ever. I think we recorded our last episode in November. I had a dog that was three months old. He just turned one year old. My three-year-old daughter, I kid you not, every single day at some point in the day, she’ll say, I love having a dog. It’s just the sweetest.

Jaime: You know what I have to say, every single one, I have like a whole list of clients that are written down. I could remember their specific issues when they’re had their babies. I’m looking at all the names and all of these dogs; I get pictures all the time. It’s almost like the doctor that delivers your baby. You keep sending them pictures of your kid, their milestones. I keep getting pictures of dogs and babies together. It really makes me so happy. I even had one. He’s a Bijon. He’s been abused.

John: It’s the one we show to our Instagram? Every now and then, we get the green light to post or Instagram the success stories. He was the most recent one.

Jaime: He was super reactive, has a bite history. They were really nervous about him. He’s older, and he’s like 13. They were like, what do we do with this 13 old dog that’s about to have a human sibling? They really thought that there was nothing they could do. The amount of change in this dog. Then they sent me this picture of the baby on the playmat and this dog just like sleeping next to him. I was so overjoyed. It’s not like they had to work super hard. These were all normal things that they could do and that they were comfortable with. It wasn’t overwhelming. It’s not like this boot camp where you’re like, oh my God, I have no idea what’s going on. I have to do all these things. These are things that can just fit into your normal life and can be super helpful for your dog to get on board with the new plan that’s coming. From a job perspective, it never feels like I’m working when I do these things. I love being a mom, and I am not going to say I loved being pregnant because I didn’t, but I know a lot about the topic because I was pregnant, and I’m able to get on a level with these new parents. They feel supported, and they feel ready. Even just from having a baby in general, but then feeling like they have these resources to really push them forward when these babies do arrive. They have someone outside their friend group. The other night, John jumped onto a virtual training and was talking to the dad and just giving dad advice on really how to help out mom with breastfeeding. It’s nice to talk to clients, not just about their dogs and just helping them move forward as being parents.

Vanessa: Right. It’s just the perfect combination because you’ve been through it. You have an incredible, huge background, obviously with dog training and everything, but you also are parents. You know firsthand what all of that stuff is like.

Jaime: We love it.

Vanessa: Is there anything else that you guys wanted to include that maybe we didn’t touch on today or

Straying Away From Traditional Dog Training

Jaime: I’ll quickly go into just straying away from traditional dog training and really what I mean about this because I know, I touched on it a bit during our episode. Really what it comes down to is we never want to reprimand. We never want to yell at our dogs for the things that they do wrong. In reality, we have to look at the situation for what it is and say, okay, if my dog is jumping up on the counters and taking food, why are they doing this? A lot of people think that commands are really what trains a dog. It’s the same thing with kids; time and effort and attention and positivity are what really round out our children, not rules. We obviously want rules that keep our kids safe and our dog safe, but they’re not what makes them who they are and their personality traits.

Dogs Trying to Get Attention

Jaime: We want to look at these dogs and say, okay, are they missing something? Are we getting enough exercise? Are we getting enough mental stimulation? Are they getting enough positive attention from me? If you come home from work and you’re super stressed out, and you need to get dinner together, and you need to do this, you need to do that. You need to do laundry, you need to fold clothes, but you haven’t seen your dog all day. They may, the second you come in and not give them any attention, go do the things that they know to get attention from you, even if it’s negative attention. Kids do the same thing. Any attention is good attention, right? If they’re jumping up on the counters and there’s nothing up there, but they know that jumping up on the counters is going to get a reaction out of you. They’re going to do it. Even though they’re getting yelled at, they’re going to do it anyway. What I really want you to do in this scenario, if I’m using this as an example, is puppy proof your counters. If your dog jumps up on your counter, I want you to ignore them. Don’t look at them. Don’t flinch. Don’t say a word because you have to make jumping up on the counters less valuable. This goes across the board.

John: It is for dogs that are jumping on the counter to get a reaction out of you. Not just to counter surf.

Jaime: If your dog really likes to take socks or household items, I always say, does your dog actually eat the items? They just take those items. Nine times out of ten, it’s usually no. They just take them until I chase them around and grab it from them. That’s what they want. They want the chase. They want you to give them attention. The only way they’re getting it is by doing these naughty things. We think yelling over and over and over again is really what gets us where we want to go. And I’m going to quote, I don’t know if you know this book, Vanessa, but it’s called Gentle Discipline, which John and I are both reading, trying to help ourselves with teaching our son, JJ, as he’s getting into his toddler years, she says in this book, and I’m going to paraphrase it. Basically, the quote is if you tell a kid a thousand times not to do something and they still don’t get it, it’s not them that has the learning issue.

John: It’s not them being a slow learner.

Jaime: Exactly. That’s what it is. I thought this was so perfect for dog training as well. I tell my clients all the time if you keep repeating yourself over and over again, and you’re not changing the way that you’re saying, and the dog still doesn’t get it, it’s not them that’s having the problem understanding. You’re not giving it to them on a platform that they can understand. We need to change the way that we do things and really look at the dog as a whole and say, is my dog getting enough of whatever it’s missing? That’s what we need to look at. That’s something I really urge parents to do before the baby comes because it’s only going to get worse when there’s a new being to take care of. Instead of reverting back to yelling and try to put commands to things, it’s not all about like sit and leave it and this and that. It’s really more. I say this to my clients all the time. It’s more emotional than command-based. That’s what I want.

Giving Your Dog Attention

Jaime: I really urge everybody to really look at their dog situation and look at their dogs as a whole dog, not just like the training command aspect of it, but who they are as a dog and say, are we missing anything? Can they find value in other things? Mental stimulation is probably the biggest thing that clients miss out on and also positive attention. I want your dog to get attention from you. Not because they had to do something wrong to get it. You’re just teaching them if they do something naughty, they’re going to get what they want from you. Give it first, and then go do the stuff that you have to do.

Sit down with your dog for five, ten minutes, give them a bunch of cuddles and take them outside or go for a quick walk. Then come back and do the laundry and make dinner because you were going to have to do that stuff anyway. Because they were going to do something naughty to get it. Try and be proactive rather than reactive. I did want to mention traditional dog training is really not the way to get our dogs to like our kids.

Behavior Modification vs. Behavior Suppression

John: I just want to add on to that real quick. We call it traditional dog training versus dog training, militant. It’s all kind of the same thing under the same umbrella of using negative stimuli or punishment to actually get the change that you want. It’s very consequential because the change that you’re getting is behavior suppression. It’s not behavior modification. Those feelings and emotions that your dog is feeling when they act out, they’re still there. They’re just not expressing them. All that means is you’re taking the tick from the time bombs. Your dog is eventually going to explode, and it could be at the cost of your baby’s safety or your safety. That’s why you really need to go for a more positive reinforcement route and change their association. This way, you’re actually modifying the behavior and not just suppressing it.

Jaime: Do you want a happy dog? I could care less if you’re dog can give me a paw. I want to make sure that your dog is happy and comfortable in your home, around your baby, and with other dogs. My goal in life is to make every dog bomb-proof no matter what situation comes up. It should be your goal as a parent, as well, to make sure that your dog can handle any stimuli or stress that comes around. They’re okay, and that you don’t have to worry about them in that situation or worry about their safety or your kids’ safety. That’s, our number one goal is to stray away from the yelling. People say all the time, well, when I yell at my dog, they stop. Yeah, because they don’t like being yelled at, but it didn’t change their behavior. It didn’t make them learn anything. If anything, it’s a band-aid in the moment, and tomorrow, they’re going to do the exact same thing all over again. We really just want to look at it from a clearer vision and really help our dogs through and give them what they need.

Fill Your Dog’s Cup

Vanessa: Some of my favorite advice that you gave the last time we chatted was to fill your dog’s cup. Could you explain that again real quick? I think it’s such a good reminder. You kind of touched on that, talking about giving your dog attention before you’re making dinner and doing all the things.

Jaime: Filling your dog’s cup is really what we want to do. This kind of goes into what we were just talking about is making sure they have everything that they need, and every dog’s needs are different, right? My two older dogs, really all three of my dogs they’re couch potatoes. They don’t do much. They’ll go on walks, but it doesn’t really change. It doesn’t make or break their behavior. If they don’t get a walk, they’re going to be losing their minds at seven o’clock at night. They could care less. I do notice because they all have anxiety on some level; they are all rescues. If I do not give mental stimulation, frozen bones work to eat toys that take them a long time to get through, and they’re chewing and licking constantly. For that time, I noticed that when I leave and come back, they are way more amped up. They’re more frantic at night. They are like looking at us like getting way more overstimulated than they would on a day that they got that mental stimulation they need. John and I know what we’re doing in this situation. We are very good at giving that positive attention. We don’t wait for them to have their breaking point before giving them what they need from us. That’s what I want people to really look at. Look at your dogs. When you fill that cup, you have to make sure that if it’s getting depleted, if they’re not getting that mental stimulation, the cups are going to come down, right.

Dogs always fill their cup up with something. A lot of times, it’s not desirable. I go back to taking the socks, jumping up on the counters. If they’re not getting mental stimulation, they’re going to want to go chew on something. Or if they’re not getting positive attention from you, that’s going to deplete their cup. They’re going to fill it with that negative attention and get yelled at because they still got you off the couch. They still got you out to get up off of the dinner table and get away from your food because you needed to go chase them to get the sock out of their mouth. They’re still getting what they want, but they could have got it, in a way more positive way that didn’t give them that understanding that doing bad things gives them the result that they want. We really want to look at it from a cup perspective. If they’re not getting what they need, they’re going to somehow figure out a way to fill their cup up. That’s, that’s what I want people to look at and look at their dogs and say, does my dog need more attention, more mental stimulation, more exercise? Do they need more socialization? Whatever your dog needs. We have to make sure they’re getting it in the right way, and they’re not getting it by doing something wrong first.

Vanessa: Perfect. Thank you for reviewing that for us. That was really helpful. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk today. Thank you so much for also helping some other listeners of the podcast run through some troubleshooting. I will link to your website and your podcast. You guys have an excellent podcast. Is there any, where else people should look for you? I will link to Instagram or any specific place people should go?

John: Yeah, we’re kind of everywhere right now. We are on Instagram. Pawsome University on YouTube. We have our website PawsomeUniversity.com. We offer virtual training. We actually have clients all over the world, Scotland, Australia, everywhere. As long as you have access to a computer, you could do Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime. We know we can help you out. We don’t do packages. If you just need one session to get all your questions answered, we could do one session. If you have questions for us, you can always go to our website and look for the ask the trainer section, where we answer listeners’ questions on the podcast. That’s another resource. Like you said, we have our podcast. You can listen to it wherever you listen to podcasts. Just search Pawsome University. I think that’s it. We put fun videos on TikTok now and then.

Jaime: Oh yeah. They’re funny. They’re mostly John. John gets a ton of hits because he’ll do it once every blue moon. Then, when I do it, I get nothing, and I’m like, wow, really? Okay. I understand.

The Benefits of Virtual Training

Jaime: Going back to the virtual training real quick. A lot of people, when they contact me, they’re like, oh, you’re not near me. I really do better in person. But I do find, and I actually just said it to a client last night that I was working with that’s in Florida. She’s like, I wish you were down here. I said, I know you’re feeling frustrated, and I get it, but I need you to know that I can’t physically fix this problem for you. I need you to know how to fix it because it does no good. If I’m the one that’s changing it for you, that doesn’t help your relationship with your dog.

I want to empower you to do what I would do in this situation. You wholeheartedly know what you’re doing. It doesn’t help you for me to come in and fix everything. That’s another reason why John and I, whenever we train dogs, even when it’s in person, it’s never the dog and us. The client always has to be there, and I want to show them how to do it so they can do it when I’m gone, and I’m not going to be around forever. I can’t fix all these issues in 45 minutes once a week. I need to know that my clients know what to do. That’s on me to really explain it in a way because everyone’s different in how they learn, whether it’s me making more videos for people to see me doing it or talking about it or explaining it in more depth. That is really what I focus on in my virtual training that people come to me. We sit down. They’re in the comfort of their own home. We go over everything in detail, and I’m letting them know this is what’s going on with your dog, and this is how we can fix it. This is what I want you to try out. Sometimes it doesn’t work the first time around. We go back to the drawing board and figure out what your dog will do better with. If you’re worried that me being in person or me being not in person is a problem. I assure you, my virtual clients actually do much better than my in-person clients.

Vanessa: That’s a really good point. I wouldn’t have thought of that as being a big benefit from virtual training.

Jaime: Nobody loved COVID, but it definitely made me a better trainer because now I know how to explain to people way more efficiently what they need to do without being there in person.

John: We had our doubts, but yeah.

Jaime: We did. I was like, this is not going to work, and it really did work. It’s actually my preferred method of training now.

Vanessa: That is awesome. As you said, nobody loved COVID. It’s been a struggle in some way or another for everyone. It’s great to see businesses that have been pivoting and people making the best of it. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat today. I appreciate you guys. Thanks for fielding all these questions. I’m sure you’ll get a new batch of people reaching out.

Jaime: Puts my two favorite things together, babies and dogs. As a mom, this made my job even more enjoyable than it already was. Thank you so much for having us.

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