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Dogs thrive on routine. It's how they learn to live in a culture that is very different than their own. Every day is pretty much the same, and they know exactly what to expect. When life as they know it changes, it can be very stressful for some dogs. This can happen in rescue dogs who are adopted into a new home and have to get accustomed to the lifestyle of their new family. It can happen when the family moves to a new home, when the dog's owner gets married or divorced, when a new baby is born, or when a new pet is added to the household. If your dog undergoes a sudden drastic change in behavior, first have a Vet exam to rule out a medical cause. Then, consider if anything has changed recently. For some dogs, it can be as minor as rearranging the living room furniture or buying a new couch.
Preparing for Change
If you aren't sure how your dog would cope with change, you can do a small test to find out. With her out of the room, move the furniture around. Then, bring her back in and see how she reacts. If she shows signs of anxiety, then you know your dog has a problem. This is good information to have if you know a big change is coming soon, such as a baby on the way! You can start helping her be comfortable with change with small things first. One way to do this is to vary her usual routine slightly. For example, if she is crate trained but has earned free run of the house, randomly crate her when you leave some days. This will help her to gradually get used to the idea that things change sometimes, but that's ok. Change only one small thing at first, and keep everything else the same so that she is not overwhelmed.
Whenever a drastic change occurs, keep whatever you can control the same. If you have a baby, you can't control crying in the middle of the night. However, you can control the dog sleeping where she has always slept. If you know ahead of time that when the baby arrives, the dog will have to find another place to sleep, go ahead and move her sleeping area when the line turns pink! Then, she will have plenty of time to get used to her new bed before baby comes. It will be part of her new routine and one less disruption in her life associated with the baby. If you are adopting a new pet, have the new pet follow the existing routine rather than changing to accomodate the new pet. It will be much easier for your resident pet to get used to a couple of small changes than to rearrange her entire life. It will also keep her from resenting the new addition, be it baby, pet, or spouse, as the cause of disrupting her life. Just remember, she was there first.
Change is inevitable. When your dog realizes that what remains constant is that she is loved, and her needs will always be met, she will become ok with that.
Additional ResourcesNew Baby & the Family Dog
New Dog & the Family Dog
Dogs & Divorce
Moving with your Dog
Anxiety in Dogs Main Page