While the arrival of a new baby is a joyful time, it’s possible your pet won’t share the same excitement. A new addition to the household brings lots of changes to a dog’s life, including unfamiliar sounds, smells, and experiences. These changes can cause stress and anxiety, but with a little work, you can ease the transition for your pet.
Here are tips for introducing your dog to your new baby so you can get them both off to a great start and set the foundation for a long-lasting relationship.
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How to Prepare Your Dog for the Baby’s Arrival
Make Sure Your Dog Is Well-Trained
Your dog should be calm and well-behaved before your newborn arrives so you can more easily set boundaries and encourage safe interaction. The best time to train your pet is when it’s young, but you can implement a dog training program at any time.
Some of the commands your dog should know are:
- Leave it
- Place (go to their quiet place)
You may also want to begin modifying disruptive canine behaviors — such as loud barking or jumping on visitors — before your baby arrives. An experienced dog trainer can help teach your pet to control impulses and make better choices.
Prepare Your Dog for a New Routine
Think about how your schedule will change when there’s a newborn in the house and start preparing your dog for a new routine. While you might have regular times for walks and meals now, it’s going to be hard to stick to the schedule because of your baby’s naps, feeding times, and fussiness.
It’s helpful to start mixing up your routine so your dog doesn’t expect things to happen like clockwork. Instead of a daily walk at 8 a.m., for example, you may want to establish a three-hour window when the walk may take place.
Get Your Dog Used to Sharing Attention
If your dog is used to being in a pet-centric household, start providing attention in different ways. This doesn’t mean neglecting your pet, of course. But instead of delivering constant attention, you may want to get your dog used to shorter blocks of attention at different times of the day.
Start Setting Up the Baby Furniture
Don’t wait until the week before your baby’s arrival to begin putting out baby furniture and items. Start assembling the crib, car seat, play yard, baby swing, and bouncy chair in advance. Set them up one or two at a time so your dog can gradually get used to having these new objects around.
Introduce Baby Scents
Baby shampoo, soaps, and lotions have a particular scent. Use them when you’re bathing so your dog becomes familiar with their smell.
Wash new baby clothes in the same detergent as your own laundry. You can even store them with crib linens and blankets in your drawers so these items smell like you.
Set New Boundaries
Once you have a baby in the house, you may want to limit your dog’s access to certain areas, such as your bedroom or the baby’s nursery. Teach your dog as early as possible if you’re making these changes. Use pet gates to create a barrier, and occasionally let your dog come in and explore when you’re also in the room.
If you want to discourage your dog from being in certain areas, set up a comfy new dog bed somewhere it’s allowed to be and entice it to relax there with treats. Teach your dog not to jump into your baby’s crib or play yard and to leave baby toys alone.
Familiarize Your Dog With Baby Sounds
The sound of a crying baby is stressful for parents and pets alike. Every so often, play audio of a crying baby to get your dog accustomed to it. Start at a low volume and gradually increase it. Reward your dog with a treat so they associate crying with something positive. Then, leave your dog alone for half an hour, because once you have a real baby crying, you’re going to be busy soothing it.
If you plan on using a white noise machine, a mobile that plays lullabies, rattles, or other noisy toys, start introducing those sounds as well.
Simulate Real-Life Scenarios
Your movements around the house will change once your newborn is home. Wrap a doll in a blanket and walk around the room or sit in a rocking chair as if you’re trying to lull it to sleep. You can also tuck the doll into a baby swing for 10 minutes. Practice commands you might use with your dog to instruct it to get down or sit during these situations.
Create a Safe Place for Your Dog
During the hectic, chaotic days of having a newborn in the house, your dog needs a place of its own to retreat to. Make sure your pet has a comfy crate or pen where it can settle when things get to be too much. Give your dog plenty of chew toys and treats when it’s tucked in its safe spot.
Adjust Your Dog’s Exercise Routine
Walking and playtime are essential to your dog’s well-being. Think about your dog’s needs, especially if it tends to be high energy. If you need a dog walker or doggie daycare to help your pup get regular exercise and socialization, be sure to make this transition before the baby comes.
You should also practice taking your pet out with an empty stroller so your dog gets used to walking beside it.
How to Bring Your Baby Home for the First Time
The moment has arrived. Before you bring your newborn home from the hospital, try to arrange for someone to take your dog for a long walk to work off any excess energy.
Ideally, your baby shouldn’t be crying. It may be worth driving around the block a couple of times to get them to fall asleep so they’re calm and quiet when you first come into the house.
When you first arrive home, your dog will be overjoyed to see you. Have a family member wait with the baby outside so you can come inside and lavish some attention on your faithful companion.
Then, bring your baby inside. Greet your dog again in a calm, happy voice. Have someone give your pet some treats as you get your child settled.
Setting Up the First Meeting
Choose a quiet time for your dog and baby to meet. Be sure to sit down and hold your baby so you can keep it safe. When you’re ready, have a family member bring your pet into the room on a short leash.
Greet your dog calmly and let it come over to investigate at its own pace. Hold your child so your dog sniffs the baby’s feet first and you can easily protect its face if necessary. Give your dog a few moments and then ask it to sit. If your dog complies, reward them for obeying.
You can spend some time together if your dog seems calm, but keep the meeting brief if you sense it’s feeling uncomfortable. Don’t force your pet to interact with your baby if it doesn’t show any interest or seems anxious.
How to Settle Into a Routine With Your Dog and Baby
Help Your Dog Feel Secure
It’s hectic and tiring to care for a newborn, but maintain your pet’s routine as much as you can. Make sure your dog gets regular exercise and some one-on-one attention so it knows it’s still an important part of the family.
Get some special treats that you give to your dog only when the baby is around. This helps your dog associate your child with something positive.
Let Your Dog Have Its Own Space
Remember the safe space you created for your dog before your baby’s arrival? Make use of this area during busy, chaotic days. Let your dog rest in its comfort zone when it’s upset by a crying baby or there’s a steady stream of visitors in the house.
Give your dog lots of chew toys and feeding puzzles to keep it occupied, and ensure no one tries to pet or play with your dog when it’s in this space.
Don’t Leave Your Baby and Dog Unsupervised
Never leave your child alone with your dog. Babies can be unpredictable and can’t respond to warning signs that a dog is uncomfortable. Be sure to keep them separated if you can’t be present in the room, even if your dog is usually calm and gentle.
Like humans, dogs need time to get used to new situations. Be patient with your canine companion as you both adjust to this new living arrangement.
What to Do If Your Dog is Aggressive Toward Your Baby?
Every dog reacts differently to a new person in the household. Despite your best efforts to smooth the transition, your dog may still not accept the presence of your baby.
Don’t Punish Your Dog
Whether it’s fearful, overwhelmed, or protecting its space, your dog may growl, snap, or act aggressively toward your child. Don’t punish your dog verbally or physically for this behavior. This can cause more stress and lead your pet to associate your child with negative consequences.
Separate the Baby and Dog
At the first sign of aggressive behavior, take your baby into another room. This is preferable to removing the dog from the room, which can feel like a punishment.
You can take your dog to its crate or safe space, but assure your pet you’re not angry. Give your dog a food puzzle to keep it occupied while it calms down.
Seek Professional Help
If your dog continues to show aggression toward your child, seek the guidance of a professional dog trainer. An experienced trainer can help curb your dog’s unwanted behaviors and teach it that there are more desirable ways to act. You can eliminate bad habits by providing positive reinforcement and rewards for good behavior.
An experienced dog trainer can help teach your pet obedience skills. This helps to improve communication and trust between you and your dog and enhances your relationship long term.
Enroll in Baby Prep Classes at The Dog Wizard
The practical strategies outlined in this article are a big step toward easing the transition for your dog, but it can be hard to know where to begin.
Consider a Baby Prep class at The Dog Wizard and put these tips into action with the guidance of an experienced, professional dog trainer. These group classes are designed specifically for dog owners preparing to welcome a baby. The course offers you a chance to get personalized instruction, ask questions, participate in discussions, and meet other dog owners who are also adding to their family.
Baby Prep classes are intended to be held without dogs present so participants can focus on the information provided in class. We recommend enrolling between the fourth and sixth months of pregnancy for optimal results.
Your baby is naturally top of mind right now, but your dog’s emotional well-being is also important. Check our calendars for upcoming Baby Prep classes and take an important step toward developing a positive relationship between your baby and your trusted canine companion.
Ultimately, nobody knows the needs of your four-legged friend quite like you, the owner. By keeping watch over your dog, you can make sure outdoor winter activities are safe and fun for your canine best bud. And, if you need a little help, reach out to The Dog Wizard today to find an experienced trainer near you.