Introducing your dog to a baby can be a hot topic during pregnancy can be a point which can worry a lot of future parents, and that’s completely normal. Up until the arrival of the baby your dog may have been your centre of attention and you’re worried that your dog may get jealous and dislike the baby or even worse…harm the baby. Well, here at Best For Mums we’ve written this handy little post to try and put your mind at ease and to give you some tips of how to make the introduction of a new family member easy for everyone in the house, especially the dog!
If this is the other way around and the baby has arrived first and you’re considering getting a dog after the fact then we’d consider reconsidering and getting a new dog once the baby has become a toddler. This is because training a puppy is very intensive and if you’ve got a baby in the house it can make it even harder to give the puppy the attention and training it needs during this critical life stage.
Preparation – before bringing baby home
The best time to help prepare for your dog and baby to be introduced is right now or before the baby comes home, there are plenty of steps you can take to prepare:
Practice obedience training
Teaching your dog to be obedient and to learn simple commands such as ‘sit’, ‘wait’ and ‘stay’ will be essential throughout their life with the baby. Your dog will need to know their place in the house when the baby arrives and they must understand that the owners are his master. The final command the dog needs to absolutely understand is ‘no’ and when an action ends with you saying no then it is not to be repeated. At this stage, teach your dog these commands and use them to rule out any unwanted behavior such as jumping up, going into the baby’s nursery or whatever else could cause problems.
A new routine
Dogs, like us, are creatures of habit and crave a stable routine. Before the baby arrives it is good practice to start your dog on their new routine early on so when the baby does arrive their routine doesn’t change much again. A change of routine could mean letting them into the nursery to see the new furniture or even to stop them from going in there and using ‘no’ if they do. Your dog may find themselves being left alone in another room so that mum and dad can change the nappy, give the baby a bath or let the baby crawl on the floor in safety – so it’s a good idea to start putting your dog in these situations now so they can get used to.
You can even make changes to the way you walk your dog by introducing a pram and being a bit more strict if your dog pulls on its lead or tries to run away.
Let your dog see all the new stuff
Dogs aren’t keen on change especially if it all comes at once. If you’re always buying new stuff, changing the layouts of the room and making a nursery from scratch then let your dog be exposed to these new things as they happen. This means that your dog has a lot less new stuff to get used to for when your baby finally comes home to meet him.
If there are going to be areas in the house that the dog won’t be allowed in or furniture it won’t be allowed on then the sooner you set those boundaries the better. What we’re trying to avoid here is the dog associating the baby with punishments or changes it might not enjoy. If you can set clear boundaries now then your dog will not only not make the connection between them and the baby it will also get used to the new boundaries which mean there will be a few areas of the house that you can safely leave the baby or let them crawl around on the floor undisturbed.
Baby gates can also double as dog gates and help set boundaries without having to lock the dog in another room.
Give your dog a health check
This one is so obvious to do but one many don’t think of when a baby’s on the way. Make sure that your dog has had a complete health check at the vets which includes worming treatment, flea treatment and vaccinations. Babies are susceptible to all sorts of stuff so make sure your dog isn’t a carrier of anything is super important.
Bring home a blanket
This one isn’t always possible especially if you’ve had a problem with free labour and have been discharged quickly. However, if it’s possible bringing home a blanket or something similar to the baby’s scent can help your dog familiarise with the baby well before meeting up.
By this point, you should have done most if not all of the steps in preparation for the little bund of joy coming home to meet your other bundle of joy. If not we’d recommend revisiting. Anyway! Now that your baby’s here it’s time to talk about the best way to introduce your dog to a baby the SAFE way!
Greet the dog before he sees the baby
When you’re coming home we would always say to greet the dog like normal FIRST before bringing the dog through the door. This is another way to help keep things normal to the dog. Make sure to not overdo it though, even if you may not have seen the dog for a while – stay calm and act like you’re coming home like normal. Once the dog has been greeted, then calmly bring in the baby in the child seat at a height that the dog can’t jump up to.
When you’re with the baby try to include the dog in the activity as much as possible but calmly. You will want to make it clear to the dog that the baby is a family member and that playing together is the way forward. Don’t exclude the dog from when the baby is present unnecessarily as the dog could start to feel resentment and lonely. If your dog does something you don’t him to such as jumping up or licking then remember to remain calm and not scold them – teach them what to do as opposed to what not to do.
Interactive toys such as Kongs are a fantastic way to have a dog and baby in the same room without worrying about the dog being bored or too focused on the baby. Keeping busy with an interactive toy will let your dog get used to being in the same room as the whole family.
A tired dog is a good dog
Whatever routine you and your dog had for exercise make sure to stick to it! Dogs who are well fed and well exercised are more likely to be good dogs that will listen and be obedient. Having a baby can take up a lot of your time but please don’t forget to give your dog just as much love as they are used to. A dog that hasn’t been exercised can get frustrated and begin to misbehave.
Never leave your dog and baby alone
This point is possibly the most important. Never, ever leave your dog and baby alone. Ever. It doesn’t matter how sweet or loyal or friendly your dog is you can never be 100% about what they could do when alone.
Don’t take the risk.