How to Introduce Your Dog to Your Newborn
It’s Time to Introduce Your Dog to Your Newborn
So you’re graduating from a fur parent to a full-blown human parent! Expanding your family is very exciting for everyone but, keep in mind that your pup will need some prep time. Babies can be intimidating and just brand new for dogs. There are new sounds, sights, and smells that come with a baby. These new sensations may overwhelm your dog.
Your whole routine and schedule will change therefore, your dog’s schedule will change too. Your dog may get less attention due to your new responsibilities. These can make your dog feel left out and confused. That confusion and jealousy can be increased if your dog has been the only baby in the house for a while or has not had a lot of experience with children.
For the smoothest transition, you’ll want to take the time to prepare your dog for this new chapter of his life. You should start a few months before you are due and focus on teaching your dog skills for safe interaction and helping your dog adjust to new experiences. Read on to find out the best techniques to do this!
Make a Plan
Like any complex situation, you should have a good plan in place long before your due date arrives. Having a plan that everyone in your house agrees upon and is aware of is important since dogs thrive on consistency. Making sure you’re on the same page as your housemates or spouse will make your job and your dog’s life much easier once the baby arrives.
A good start is to get your dog enrolled in some basic obedience classes. This will help to prepare both your dog and you to manage your dog’s behavior. A dog that can sit, stay, and lay down will be much easier to manage than one that can’t.
The most important skills to train your dog with are sit, down, stay, wait, leave it, drop it, no jumping, calm, and come. Sit, come, and down are obvious and your dog may already have these commands down. Stay and wait will help your dog control his impulses. This can be useful in redirecting their excitement when the baby is upset or excited.
Obedience and Commands
Leave it and drop it will be important in drawing a clear line between his toys and your baby’s things. Children’s toys often look very similar to dog toys so it can be confusing for your pup. Make sure to be consistent and do not let him play with anything that is not his.
Controlling the habit of jumping when greeting can be difficult but it is important. You may think it’s cute now, or you may find it annoying. But, once you have a baby in your arms it can become dangerous. Using a spray to help deter the dog from jumping up can make the process much quicker.
Teaching a “calm” or “relax” command will come in handy when things get hectic. A screaming baby, stressed mom, and an anxious dog are not a good mix. Being able to command your dog to go to a designated area or spot and “calm” will help you to feel more in control. Having a separate space for your dog, like a dog bed or kennel, is beneficial for your dog as well. It can become a safe space for them even when he has not been commanded to go there.
Special Tricks and Commands
A few special tricks or skills you can teach your dog before the baby comes are hand targeting, “go away”, and fetch. Again, your dog may already know a few of these but practicing and mastering before the baby arrives will help you and your dog feel confident in his abilities.
Hand targeting can be useful in redirecting your dog’s excitement about the baby. Instead of trying to play with the baby as he would play with another dog you can have your dog target your hand with his nose and get praise. This will allow the baby to watch the dog and the dog gets close access to the baby without causing harm to your baby. Eventually, this technique can be used to teach your dog to gently touch your baby!
“Go away” can be extremely useful. Whether you use it when you are changing your baby on the floor or when your baby is eating it can help keep your dog and your baby safe. Implementing this skill is easy. Use treats and consistency. Throw a treat away from you while using the command “go away.” Then, say the command and wait to throw the treat until your dog is already backing away. Praise his genius by saying “yes! Good go away!” then, toss the treat.
Fetch is probably a skill or game that your dog already knows. Make sure that your dog knows the command “drop it” or “give.” This can eventually be a fun interaction for your baby and dog. Some dogs tend to combine fetch and tug. To protect your baby it is important to teach “drop” commands.
Prepare Your Dog
Plan to start introducing baby-themed stimuli a few months before your baby arrives. Gradually introducing crying baby sounds, baby blankets, baby toys, diapers, and other day-to-day baby items will help your dog to adjust easier.
A few weeks before the baby’s arrival you should start to adjust your routine as closely as possible to a real match for when the baby is there. This will give your dog time to get used to the new swing of life. Plus, this gives you some practice.
Some parents like to keep the baby’s room off-limits to the dog to help reduce dander and hair as well as keeping everyone safer. You should implement this restricted access before your baby arrives. Teach your dog to sit and stay outside of the door. Alternatively, you can install a baby gate in the doorway.
Some dogs can be sensitive to new smells. If you know this is the case for your dog you’ll want to start introducing the baby toys and supplies when you get them and one at a time. Let your dog sniff them, but be clear with boundaries. Set a few baby toys on the ground, let your dog inspect them, sniff them, and maybe even gently lick them if it is an appropriate material to do so. Stop your dog if he tries to pick up the toy, play with it, or become too rough with it in any way.
Many dogs are very aware of unfamiliar noises and can become agitated if they are left in the dark about where they are coming from and if they are safe. With a newborn soon to be in your home, new noises will be plentiful. You can best prepare your dog by playing a realistic recording of baby cries. Start at a low volume and be prepared with ample treats for good behavior. Use this technique for 5-10 minutes every day, raising the volume slightly each day until it matches that of a real baby.
Another issue you should prepare yourself and your dog for is the sudden decrease in attention that he will be receiving. Some dogs can become jealous of their owner’s giving another animal attention, which can result in bad behavior or an episode of lashing out from your dog. To avoid any injury or hurt feelings you can start by introducing a baby doll. This will help you to see how your dog reacts when your attention and affection is given to another object. It also gives you some practice on how to interact with your dog and care for your baby at the same time.
Once your child is old enough to understand how to handle animals gently and properly, you will surely teach this lesson. However, infants do not understand these lessons and often poke, grab, and tug at dogs in ways that adults and older children do not. To prepare your dog for this simply start treating your dog like a baby would. Reward him with treats when after you’ve tugged at his ear or poked his lips. This will help him to associate good things with uncomfortable interactions.
The First Meet
This the moment that you’ve been preparing for, looking forward to, and maybe dreading. With a little help and preparation, you should be able to get through your dog and baby’s first meeting with ease.
Coming Home From the Hospital
Have everyone else who will be entering the house go in first. This will allow your dog to have an initial moment of excitement about seeing his humans for the first time a few days and a chance for your spouse or helper to give your dog one last “only-child” interaction. Have your helper prepare treats and leash your dog. Once your dog is leashed and calmed down a bit, have your helper alert you with a text or a signal.
When you enter the house with your baby, make sure your body language and attitude are calm and relaxed. If you are acting nervous or jumpy your dog will be aware of this and become worried himself. Talk to your dog in a soft, happy voice but make sure that your dog is being distracted with treats being given by your helper. Having your helper give your dog commands like, “sit”, “lay down”, or “shake” can help to keep your dog focused without becoming too excited.
First Official Meeting
Make sure to reward and praise your dog for any calm interest in the baby. This means no jumping, no barking, and no excited whining or shaking. To keep your dog’s association with the new baby happy, you’ll want to avoid any scolding. Instead, use redirection for unwanted behavior, using your leash is a backup for any unexpected situations that may arise.
Once you are ready to officially introduce your fur baby to your new baby, make sure to carefully plan this exciting event by having help and preparing for the unexpected. Have a helper bring your dog into a quiet room they are comfortable with on a leash. Talk to your dog in a calm and happy voice, encouraging him to come say hi to the baby.
If your dog seems relaxed and ready to approach, have your helper walk him closer to you and the baby. Allow your dog to sniff the baby’s blanket. Do not allow your dog to go near their hands, feet, or face until you are sure of his reaction. Once you are comfortable with your dog’s interactions, give him a treat to reward his calm behavior and have him lay down or sit. Once you and your dog are ready, repeat this process with more treats and praise.
Life With Baby
In the following weeks after you bring your baby home, your dog will likely be confused and curious. Make sure to keep a close eye on your dog when he’s around the baby or the baby’s items. He may become jealous of the attention that has been diverted from him to the baby and lash out by chewing a blanket or toy.
Incorporate your dog into your baby’s routine. Have your dog join you for nursing sessions during the day. He can lay at your feet and watch you while you give him praise and your spouse or a helper gives him treats. While your baby is awake, allow him to watch your baby’s movements and listen to his sounds. This will help your dog become accustomed to the new family member faster.
Avoid limiting your interactions with your dog until the baby is asleep or with your spouse or partner. This will teach your dog that he only gets attention if the baby is not around and this will hinder your dog’s relationship with the baby. Instead, try to interact with your dog while the baby is awake as much as you can. Give him treats and talk in a happy voice to your dog and your baby. This will help your dog to associate your baby with happy times.
Just like dog’s children of all ages love the outdoors. If the weather permits, bring your baby and dog outside together. Let your baby watch your dog in action! This can be very entertaining for the baby and your dog will feel a sense of normalcy by getting back to what he knows. Plus a baby’s giggles are great praise for a dog who’s acting silly!
Remember to continually reward your dog for calm behavior around the baby. As a newborn, your baby will not be very exciting to your dog but, as your baby gets older he will become much more like a playmate. By encouraging calm behavior from the beginning you will help your dog to understand that the baby is fragile and must be treated with gentle behavior.
Bringing home a new baby is already a huge change in your life, and your dog hasn’t been preparing for this moment as you have. Remember to be very patient with your fur baby and encourage him to interact with the baby whenever you can. Be patient with yourself as well. If you need to shut the door, use a kennel, or call a friend for help, don’t feel like a failure. Some dogs are more sensitive to change than others and need more time to adjust.
In any case, you, your baby, and your dog will soon create a happy family. The rewards of having a dog that can interact with your baby far outweigh the cons. Just think, your baby has a built-in best friend for the remainder of his childhood! Plus, your dog is bound to get some yummy treats out of the deal once your baby learns how to throw table scraps.
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