Dog and baby in field
Dabl At Home Dec 2020
Presented By
Dabl at Home

The Way You Introduce Your Dog And Baby Matters More Than You’d Think

Ensuring your baby and dog have a successful first introduction is important to keeping your newborn safe and establishing a loving relationship between your dog and your family’s newest addition!

Bringing home your newborn is one of the most exciting times in your life! There are countless viral videos and social media posts of loving and excited dogs cuddling with newborns, sending babies into adorable fits of giggling, and taking up a guard post next to the crib. But behind every adorable relationship that blooms between our dogs and infants is careful planning and laying the groundwork necessary to make a positive first impression. 

While the hope is that your dog will be delighted by the family’s newest addition, he may initially be scared or nervous about the arrival of the new baby. Dogs are intuitive, and likely sense that change is coming when you become pregnant and he sees you and your spouse preparing the nursery. However, dogs thrive on routine and may be nervous when it’s actually time to bring the baby home because things will be changing rapidly by then. Some dogs simply have never seen a baby or child before, and their human sibling will be their first exposure. Others may become jealous because the baby will require a ton of attention, which means your fur baby might feel like he’s missing out on the love. Meanwhile, other dogs will be very excited and fall in love with the baby immediately. It’s hard to be sure what reaction to expect from your dog with such a major life change, so it’s important to take steps to prepare your dog to have a good first impression of the newborn. 

Prepare Your Pet For Your New Arrival: 

Before your new baby is born, you can start preparing your dog for the little one’s impending arrival. It’s a good idea to start introducing your dog to the sights, sounds, and smells he will be exposed to once the baby arrives. Around four months before the baby arrives, start introducing your dog to the sounds of crying and realistic baby sounds that can be found on the internet, let him examine the nursery, and allow him to smell products that will be used with the baby. Use some of the baby’s lotions, creams, shampoos, or powders on yourself so your dog will get used to their scent and associate them with a familiar person he trusts. As you buy supplies, such as car seats, toys, and baby clothes, let your dog investigate the items for a bit before you put them away. You can even practice some of the behaviors you will be doing frequently with your newborn using a realistic doll, such as rocking and feeding, to help prepare your dog for the real baby’s arrival. Similarly, you can anticipate changes to your dog’s routine and start slowly transitioning to the new routine around one or two months before the birth to help your dog ease into the changes. 

Reinforce and Retrain Useful Commands:

Part of your preparations may also mean spending some time training your dog to reinforce good behavior, or teach new commands and set different boundaries. Having good and reliable verbal control over your dog will help ensure the interactions between your dog and newborn are safe and pleasant. For example, if your baby’s nursery will be off limits, you don’t need to wait until the baby is here to start teaching your dog to wait at the door and only come in when invited. Many parents also like to teach their dogs to “go away” on command. All you have to do is tell your dog to go away, and reward her with treats and a praise word when she listens. This command is particularly useful when you need your dog to move away from the baby for any reason. It’s also a lifesaver when your baby starts crawling, so you can remove your dog from the situation if she seems nervous with a baby making a beeline toward her. 

Take Your Time During The First Encounter: 

When it’s time to bring your baby home, you should be cautiously optimistic as you plan to introduce your new baby to your fur baby. Before the baby comes home, many parents like to send home a blanket or clothing item that smells like the baby for one last scent introduction before your dog meets the real deal. If you will be arriving home with an entourage, allow other guests to enter first so your dog can greet everyone with her usual level of excitement. Then, enter the house calmly with your new baby. Keep the dog on a leash and have plenty of high value treats on hand to reward your pup and creative positive associations with your infant during the introduction. Keep the tone of the meeting calm, light, and happy, and praise your dog for good behavior around the newborn. It will be up to you to determine how quickly you will introduce your dog and baby and how much interaction you will allow them to have. Some people let their dog sniff the baby as much as she wants right away. Other new parents prefer to move slowly, only allowing the dog to sniff the baby’s feet and allowing them to interact for only a few minutes at a time until everyone gets more comfortable. 

The reason most experts advise moving slowly and keeping your dog on a leash during their first meeting is for the safety of the infant. Nervous dogs can sometimes attack or bite out of anxiety or fear, and being able to quickly separate the dog and infant will prevent injuries. There may be a bit of an adjustment period where your dog and baby will need to be kept separated. If your dog really seems to struggle with accepting the newest member of your household, make sure to consult with a certified dog trainer to help resolve the situation as quickly as possible. That said, when careful preparation and thought is used, a successful introduction is almost always the result. Many dogs quickly fall in love with the new baby. 

Make Sure Your Dog Still Feels Loved: 

If your dog has a positive first meeting with your baby but starts to act out later on, this could be because your dog is trying to adapt to your new routine as a growing family or out of jealousy. If your dog is acting out in ways that could become aggressive or dangerous to the baby, always consult with a dog trainer to stop the behavior immediately. That said, your dog may just be missing being the sole bearer of your attention. Leading up to the birth of a new baby, many pet parents make the mistake of giving their dog extra attention and love. When the new baby is born and this attention abruptly stops, your dog may be left feeling hurt, confused, and extra let down. This could cause your dog to feel jealous toward the baby. Therefore, try not to treat your dog any differently in the weeks leading up to the birth. That said, make sure to always give your dog at least some daily attention once the baby is born, even if that means relying on friends or family to help you out or taking your dog to doggie daycare to get some time to socialize and just be a dog. Many couples also bring treat containers into the baby’s room, so the dog can be rewarded and acknowledged with a quick tasty snack here or there even when you’re busy tending to the baby. 

While introducing their dog to their baby is something that parents both look forward to and dread, be reassured with the knowledge that everything has a way of working out for the best in the end. After all, you’ll have around 9 months to prepare your dog to meet your family’s newest addition. While ensuring a good first impression is ideal, even pets and babies that get off to a rocky start can become the best of friends in a matter of time. 

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