So your family has grown and you now have a little bundle of joy. Congratulations! If you’re wondering how to go about introducing your dog to a new baby, you’ve come to the right place.
Responsible pet parents will make sure this process happens slowly and carefully, so you stand the best chance of having both your babies grow up in a loving and harmonious household.
Train your dog before introducing them to a baby
If your dog hasn’t gone to puppy training school and doesn’t have basic obedience, it’s time to fix that. You might not have minded your dog jumping up to say hi before, but it becomes a bigger problem when it jumps at the bassinet or rocker. Or when your joyful dog knocks you over with your baby in your arms.
Commit to teaching your dog basic obedience at a class or with a dog trainer in your own home. Making sure they know how to respect your space as well as respond to commands like sit, lie down, stay, and come can make your life much easier when the new arrival is brought home.
Oh, and teach this handy trick…. Using the word ‘go away’ as a positive command can be really helpful. Before the baby arrives, ensure pup has this down pat (we love a good pun). No yelling or scolding is required.
You simply toss a treat away from them while saying ‘go away.’ Once they’ve got that, say the command and wait for them to move away before throwing them the treat. Now you have a way to ask the dog to move away from your baby without it being a punishment, and without needing to rebuke your dog.
Introducing your dog to other babies and kids
Lots of dogs haven’t been around children before, and simply don’t know what to expect.
Unlike adults, kids are likely to shriek, move suddenly, or approach your dog face-first. If your dog has never experienced this, it can be overwhelming.
Before your baby arrives, try to expose your dog to other babies and older children safely. Take him to a park on a lead to see how he reacts to kids playing and running from a safe distance.
If you have friends or family with kids, find out if you could walk your dog nearby or alongside them when they take their children out somewhere. If things go really well, you might even organise a play date where your dog can meet them properly without a lead (with you on watchful standby).
Getting your dog used to the way kids sound and move can help them to adjust more easily when you have your own in the house.
Introducing your dog to baby items
Babies come with all kinds of gear. Prams, high chairs, bouncers, cots, play pens, you name it. To a dog, many of these things are completely unfamiliar and might be scary. Buy them in advance where possible and allow your dog plenty of time to sniff and investigate them.
That way when baby comes, your dog won’t have to deal with wondering who the baby is as well as why it’s in a weird rolly machine. If they’re used to the baby gear, your dog will be less likely to associate the baby with scary things.
Handling the dog and baby introduction smoothly
When the big day arrives and your baby comes home, handling the initial introduction can seem daunting.
When you’re introducing your dog to a new baby, you want your dog to be calm and content. The first thing to do is make sure that your dog doesn’t have excess energy. Ask someone to take the dog for a walk or let him or her spend the morning playing at the park.
When you arrive, let your dog greet you before he meets the baby. Once that’s out of the way, try to engineer a calm introduction. Keep your dog on a lead, and make sure your baby is in your arms.
Make sure you’re calm and reassuring rather than excitable or anxious.
Let the dog sniff the baby from afar initially. Administer praise for staying calm, and then remove him or her from the situation.
Once you’re confident that your dog is ready to meet the baby properly, let them sniff your baby’s feet first. This way, there’s less chance of things going awry if the baby unexpectedly cries, screams, or squirms.
Handling the dog and baby dynamic going forward
The golden rule when it comes to dogs and babies is to never leave your baby unsupervised with your dog. No matter how friendly or trustworthy your dog is, it’s a risk that isn’t worth taking.
As your child gets older, you can teach them about how to behave around the dog. Hopefully, they’ll grow to be great buddies who play, nap, and cuddle together.
Read our article on why dogs bite so you can learn to look for any warning signs and diffuse the situation before it escalates, especially as your child grows. Our article on whether your dog is scared is another useful resource for decoding dog body language, especially when it comes to anxiety and fear that can lead to aggression.
Making time for your dog is key
You’ll no doubt be tired with a new baby in the house. And sometimes it can be all too tempting to skip the walks or cuddles with your dog. It’s hard, but making sure you carve out some time for your dog can pay off in the long run.
Try to keep their routine the same as or similar to what it always was, meaning they still get some time for walks, play, and cuddles with you.
If your dog is ignored, they can become anxious and resentful. You might find that your dog starts acting strangely. While aggression is one outcome, they might express their frustration in other ways like barking, chewing, or urinating inside.
Read our article on dogs and kids for more advice on how you can foster a great relationship between the human kids and the fur kids for years to come.
And while you’re at it, get them a dog insurance policy. Finances are likely to be stretched with the arrival of a human baby, and pet insurance can help lighten the load when your dog needs medical attention.