Bringing a new baby home is an overwhelming experience on its own. It doesn’t matter what day of the year it is, the little one’s homecoming is a major life event worth celebrating for. But unlike everyone else in the household, there might be one member who won’t be as enthusiastic about this change: your dog.
Having children grow up with dogs is proven to be beneficial, but their first meeting might not go as smoothly as you wish it would. As soon as the baby comes home, the new sight, sound, and smell given off by the new addition to the family can take its toll on your pet. Dogs have great sense. Once you have a bun in the oven, your four-legged pal knows that something major is about to happen. The problem is, they may not be able to understand what exactly is going on and could end up responding the wrong way. If your dog has zero experience with young children, there is a chance that they’ll find it hard to adjust at first.
This is where your responsibility as pack leader comes in. It should be noted that to introduce your dog to a new baby requires the owner to take more precaution than necessary. So in the months leading up to the baby’s arrival, it is highly recommended that you slowly introduce your dog to a new baby at home before the child actually arrives and help your pet deal with the big changes that lie ahead.
Here are a few tips to help you introduce your dog to a new baby the safest way possible.
How to Safely Introduce Your Dog to a New Baby at Home
Behaviors such as jumping to greet you at the door may not seem harmful now, but when you’re nearing your due date or carrying an infant in your arms, it becomes a completely different story. Dog training tips would come in handy as you prepare to introduce your dog to a new baby. Here are a few commands that your dog needs to master before the baby arrives.
- Sit and down
- Stay, wait, come
- Leave it or drop it. These commands are helpful when your dog starts getting curious about the baby’s things. Baby toys and other essentials are particularly hazardous for dogs, as they could end up choking on them.
- Relax in the dog crate. It can be difficult to supervise two dependent living creatures at the same time. But you can eliminate all your worries by teaching your dog to relax in her special “place” when things get busy around the house.
Basic obedience skills will help you manage the dog’s behavior when the baby arrives. Make it a point to enroll your dog in an obedience class to give them all the training they need. During your walks, you may also start giving your pet exposure to little children. Under your careful supervision, ask your fellow moms to try walking their strollers near you. Repeat this exercise over and over again until they’re totally acclimated to the sights and sounds of young children so when the time comes that you have to actually introduce your dog to a new baby, it will be way easier for them to adjust.
Scroll down for the video
The “go away” command
You can always use this command to control your dog’s actions around the baby. Remember, to introduce your dog to a new baby at home is a whole new experience for him and the child, so you would want to them to be as gentle around each other as possible. But with the “go away” command, you teach your dog to leave whenever the baby starts to make them feel nervous. As a result, they’ll never be forced to express their anxiety through negative behavior like growling or biting.
Here are a few tips on how you and your canine can master the “go away” command:
- Show your dog a treat, tell them “go away” and throw the treat about four to five feet away from you. Repeat this several times.
- Next, refrain from tossing the treat until your dog moves on their own. Once you say “go away,” move your arm as if you’re tossing the treat. Chances are, your dog will move in the direction of your gesture. If they do, say “yes” and toss the treat four or five feet away in the same direction your dog moves.
- Repeat the sequence several times until your dog steps away before you can even say “Yes!”
Proper Handling, Body Movements, and More
Poking, touching, and grabbing
Newborns and toddlers grab anything within reach, especially since they lack the logic to determine what is off-limits to them. Your dog’s fur, ear, and tail aren’t an exception. To prepare your dog for a potentially uncomfortable situation, you have to make them accustomed to the type of touching your baby does. This includes poking, grabbing, poking, and tugging. Treat this exercise as a type of obedience training, complete with treats! The idea is to show your dog that good things will happen when they’re prodded.
A good way to start is to poke your dog gently. When you get their attention, hand them a treat. In the same manner, try grabbing their skin or pinching them gently and then reward with a treat. While training, associate certain phrases like “What was that?” every time you touch the dog. When the baby arrives, you can use the same phrase to reinforce this command with them. If you keep repeating this exercise, your dog will start to anticipate the treat and ignore all the touch and tugs. Remember to start gently while gradually intensifying your actions to avoid getting bitten.
When you introduce your dog to a new baby, it is important that you help your pet get familiar with the movements a baby does. Crawling is an entirely new experience for dogs, especially if they’ve never seen a human being on eye level before. It may seem awkward, but you can get your dog used to crawling by showing them you do it too! Start by crawling toward your dog. Your canine will likely lift their head in wonder. As soon as they look at you, reward them with treats and affection. If there are more people in the household, let them participate in this exercise too.
Prepping your dog for the big arrival
A change in lifestyle is never an easy experience for dogs. When you introduce your dog to a new baby at home, it can bring about feelings of anxiety and even depression. But when you slowly introduce these changes even before the arrival of the baby, you help reduce the stress it causes to your pet.
- Incorporate these changes into your daily routine. Even if you’re a first-time mom, you still need to predict how your schedule will change when the baby arrives. For example, your rest schedule should coincide with the baby’s nap time. It pays to prepare your dog for the changes in their exercise routines. You can plan out a single long walk instead of shorter routine walks that happen multiple times a day to save you time and energy. Feeding should also be taken into consideration. You may want to invest in an automatic feeder. These machines allow you to dispense food at set times each day.
- Establish boundaries around the baby’s room. Condition your dog toward understanding that there is an invisible border in the nursery that he’s not allowed to cross. You may allow them to explore and sniff things in the room under your supervision and then firmly command them that it’s time to leave. Keep repeating this activity months before the baby’s arrival. This exercise helps your dog understand that the room belongs to a pack leader and should be treated as such.
- Prepare your pet for new experiences. As established above, babies are new creatures for dogs. They aren’t the same size as the grown-ups the dogs are used to seeing, they make loud crying noises, and are generally different in nature. It is a good idea to start conditioning your dog to grow accustomed to baby sounds, smells, and even sights. You can start by having them sniff the baby toys and supplies under your supervision. You may also try rubbing some of the baby’s lotion on your skin to help them identify the scent. Once they attempt to chew or lick, immediately divert their attention using a chew toy or their favorite treat.
- Try using a doll. It may seem a bit awkward, but try getting a doll and treat it the same way you would an infant. Carry it around the home, coo to it, and put it in the crib. After following these steps, allow your dog to start investigating using their nose. The goal here is to help them get used to the baby items by introducing them to new scents and sights.
Nine months should be enough time for you and your dog to start working through any unwanted habits before the baby arrives. When you’re trying to introduce your dog to a new baby, the most important thing for you to establish is that you have another pack leader coming over and that new member should be treated with respect. If all else fails, hire a professional to work with you.
Meeting the baby for the first time
To introduce your dog to a new baby at home requires timing too. You can choose to let your dog meet the baby right away or wait it out a bit longer. All that matters is that you have the right mental and emotional mind-set when doing so. Your behavior will determine how the dog reacts. Nervous and agitated demeanor calls for a similar reaction from your dog. To avoid this, try calmly sitting in a quiet room with the baby safe in your arms. Let someone else leash your dog and bring them in to investigate this new pack member with their nose. Reward their calm and collected behavior with treats and affection.
Adjusting to life with the baby
A child growing up with the family pet can be a wonderful thing, but you need to know that some relationships aren’t formed overnight. It is up to you to bridge the bond between the dog and the baby. You can’t achieve this by scheduling which living creature you direct your attention to. Not only is it time-consuming, doing so will only make one feel jealous over the other! Instead, give attention to your dog even while the baby is present. For example, tag your baby along when you walk the dog. You may also feed your dog right after the baby is fed so they’ll know that the pack leader always comes first. By following these practices, you show your dog how to coexist with the newest member of your pack. It will also serve as a reminder that good things happen to them whenever the baby is around.
Teaching your dogs to grow accustomed to other children
Babies will eventually grow up and start having “play dates.” This means that it is important for you to teach the dog to get used to anyone and anything they might have to interact with. Ask your fellow parents to come over and carefully introduce them to the dog. You can ask the kids to toss toys or treats when your dog is well-behaved. Always make sure you supervise their interactions to prevent any accidents. Taking them to public parks to meet other children can be helpful as well.
It takes more than months of training for the dog to get comfortable around a baby. And you as the owner has a lot of work to do, but at the end of the day, having a well-behaved dog around your newborn will be worth all the hard work!