1 September 2020
There are a lot of emotions going on when you bring home a new baby. From excitement to exhaustion and everything in between, babies are certainly a handful. Not to mention prepping and training your other fur baby for the new arrival!
When you bring home your new bundle of joy, you might think your dog will instantly love the new baby just as much as you do. Unfortunately, this is quite the case. Preparing your dog for a new baby takes effort and training both before and after the baby arrives.
That’s why we want to make sure you have all the information so you can make it as smooth a transition as possible for you and more importantly, for your dog. With enough preparation and training, the odds of your dog loving (or at least accepting) this new baby might just tip in your favour.
While certain dog breeds are naturally better suited for families, most dogs, in general, can accustom themselves to the newest human addition if their owners stay patient and consistent with their training. So here are our best tips and advice for introducing dogs to babies.
Things To Do BEFORE Baby Arrives
It’s crucial to remember that bringing a new baby home is probably going to turn your dog’s world upside down. They are dealing with a new creature, new smells, new noises and most importantly - no longer being the centre of their owner’s attention. The good news: there are a few things you can do to help this transition go as smoothly as possible and ways to help establish a bond between dog and baby.
Introduce baby items
In the months before the baby's arrival, let your dog explore the new baby items you intend to use around the house or during walks with the dog. Things like prams, high chairs, car seats, jumpers, bassinets, and swings are going to be frightening for dogs who have never seen them before.
Imagine bringing home a baby AND all of these items at the same time. Your dog’s anxiety might be going through the roof. Introduce your dog to as many of these items you can before the baby arrives so you can address any fears they might have with them. You really don’t want to be calming a frightened dog whilst your baby is in the item that is scaring them!
Capture your babies smell
When your baby arrives at the hospital - but before it comes home - is the best time to start introducing your dog to the new infant smell. Smelling is the most powerful sense for dogs, and using this advantageously can help the introduction to your baby go well.
After your baby is born, take any piece of item or clothing that has been used by the baby (think socks, hats, shirts, blankets - but preferably NOT used nappies) and place each item in a plastic bag and seal tightly. This will help preserve the baby's smell until you need the items at home.
Have your partner or other family member head to your home to check on the dog and use the baby items to help your dog associate happy emotions with the scent of the new baby. Here is how you can do this:
- Attach one of the baby items to your clothes so that when you first walk into the home - your dog's excitement at seeing you will be associated with the smell of the baby.
- Rub the second baby item on a ball or stick and play fetch with your dog. This happy emotion they feel from playing fetch will be associated with the smell of the baby.
- You can even put the next baby item at the bottom of their food bowl to - again - associate their happy feeling or emotion of being fed with the smell of the baby.
- Bring the baby blanket out and let your dog sniff and explore it at their leisure, so they get used to the baby's scent at their own pace.
Any happy emotion that your dog has is now associated with the smell of the baby. Theoretically, when your baby arrives at home, your dog will associate the baby's smell with these positive emotions.
Things To Do WHEN Baby Arrives
Let your dog greet each of you alone
When you first come home - especially if you’ve been at the hospital for a few days, your dog will inevitably be very excited to see you. Letting your dog greet you without the fear of hurting the baby if they jump up or get too boisterous is critical. The last thing you want to do is scold your dog for greeting you in their usual way just because you now have a baby in your arms.
This is likely to start the dog-baby relationship off on the wrong paw.
To manage this potential scenario, one of you (or another family member) should take the dog for a long walk or give it playtime to burn off any extra energy. Then you can both take turns entering the house without the baby, so your dog can greet you as normally as possible.
Let your dog greet the baby
After your dog has calmed down and is no longer overly excited at seeing you, it's time to let your dog greet your baby. When you bring the baby inside your home, it's recommended to establish a barrier between your dog and the baby just in case anything happens. Having your dog on a lead for the initial introduction can help mitigate any potential problems. It's always better to be safe than sorry.
With your partner or other family member having the lead in hand, sit on the floor with the baby and let your dog come towards you and the baby. Don't force your dog to approach. They will likely be curious, so it shouldn't take long for your dog to head on over.
If they gently approach, sniff, or lick the baby, be sure to praise them calmly, give them a command ("down" or "sit" works well here), and provide a treat. This helps to keep the situation as controlled as possible. As your dog approaches the baby, let them sniff and explore the baby - starting with the feet.
Remember, your dog needs a little direction from you on how to act and be well-behaved around the new baby.
After a few minutes, hand the baby over to your partner and take this time to praise and cuddle your dog enthusiastically. Repeat this practice several times over the next few days. This will help your dog associate the baby with calmness, happiness, and being well-behaved.
Give your dog attention when the baby is awake
Some owners lavish attention on their dog as soon as the baby goes to sleep. While you can still give your dog attention during this time, make an effort to provide them with attention when the baby is awake, too. You don’t want your dog to associate an awake baby with being ignored. Try to make an effort in establishing a positive relationship between baby and dog even in seemingly small situations like these.
Maintain your dog’s schedule
Similar to introducing new baby items to your dog, the main point when bringing a new baby home is to accustom your dog to new changes gradually. When you change too much too quickly, your dog naturally gets stressed and can start misbehaving in response. One way to mitigate this situation is to maintain your dog's schedule even after the baby has arrived.
Feed and walk your dog at similar times before the baby's arrival. It will be hard to juggle both your dog's schedule and your baby's schedule, but the effort can be worth it in establishing a positive relationship between the two.
If you do need to change your dog’s schedule, try to anticipate the change ahead of time and implement it before the baby arrives. Doing this will keep your dog from associating these new changes with the baby.
Read your dog’s emotions
Your dog's body language will inform you when they are uncomfortable. As a dog parent, you should know how to read your dog's emotions, feelings, or any other warning signs that your dog is stressed or uneasy.
If you see that your dog is uncomfortable when your baby is around, you need to interrupt your dog before they ever reach the point of growling. Most likely, your dog won't get to the point of growling, but you need to choose safety over chance 100% of the time.
You can do this by splitting the dog and baby up. Either walk out of the room with the baby or command your dog to go to his quiet space. This will help disassociate their uneasiness with the baby if you separate the two early enough.
Benefits of having dogs around newborns
If you are thinking, "This is a lot of work introducing my newborn to my dog", here are some stats that might encourage you to keep up your efforts:
- Studies show that having dogs around babies can help boost their immune system
- Pediatric studies show that children raised with dogs in the first year of their life have fewer respiratory issues and ear infections compared to children who weren’t raised with dogs.
- Another medical study shows that children with dogs as pets in the home as babies had fewer colds than children who didn’t have dogs in the home.
Don’t be discouraged in your efforts of introducing your new bundle of joy to your dog. With patience, consistency and plenty of love, your dog will eventually come around to loving or at the very least, accepting this new addition to the pack.
Last Tips before you go
When introducing your dogs to babies, it’s incredibly important to remember how dogs react, think and feel as CANINES. Dogs need to know who is the leader (i.e. YOU) of the pack (i.e. the household) and they need to know that their resources (food, playtime, attention) aren’t decreasing with the addition of a new pack member (the baby).
- Always keep plenty of treats on hand for the first few days after bringing the baby home.
- Always give your dog extra praise and treats anytime they are remaining well-behaved and calm near the baby. This helps teach them that good things can happen when the baby is around.
- No matter how well-behaved or how much you trust your dog, never leave them alone with the baby.
- Keep in mind that babies change quickly and your dog is constantly needing to adapt to this change. Be patient with your pup.
- You want to help your dog establish a positive relationship with the baby in any way you can so avoid unnecessary scolding when associated with the baby or the baby’s items.
- No matter how well-trained your dog is, a new baby being dropped in their environment will terrify any dog if they are not properly prepared.
Remember, the best dogs around babies are the ones that are calm, well-trained, and well-socialised with children.