Bringing your baby home to meet your dog can be a confusing and stressful experience, especially for your dog. They’ll likely not have been around many babies before and their world is going to be filled with new sights, smells and all sorts of other changes.
Thankfully, expecting parents have plenty of time to prepare their dog for the new arrival in their home. Tweaks to routine, attitude and training can help you have a successful first meeting and encourage your child and dog to develop that treasured special bond they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.
Check Your Dog’s Health
Before the birth of your baby, it’s recommended that you take your dog to the vet for a full health check. Advise the vet you will be bringing a newborn into the house and ask them to give your dog a full checkup to ensure there are no underlying health issues.
A health check for your dog both makes sure there’s nothing that could be harmful to your baby and gives you peace of mind that your dog is healthy.
You should also make sure their flea and worming treatment is up to date. Fleas and worms are bad at the best of times but can be a nightmare with a new baby in the house.
Brush Up On the Training
Whether your dog is well-trained or on the more disobedient side, it’s worth polishing their training before the baby arrives. Two of the most basic commands that will help to make your life a little easier are “leave” and not to jump up. “Leave” will come in handy if the dog picks up anything from the baby. It will also teach them to stop doing whatever they’re doing and break their attention.
Stopping your dog from jumping up is vital with big dogs, especially with the first introduction. Teach them to wait, rather than jump, to help reduce any risk of knocking you or the baby over. It’ll also come in handy when the baby starts to crawl and eventually walk.
A new command that is invaluable to teach your dog before bringing the baby home is the spoken instruction “Away” or “Leave”. The basic premise is to make your dog stop what they’re doing and leave where they are. The command will let you calmly send the dog away without raising your voice. Similarly, “Bed” can also be handy to control to send your dog away.
Bring the Baby’s Things Home
Before the baby is born, try to bring the majority of the baby’s things home a few bits at a time. Bringing the baby home is big enough for your dog without coming home with all sorts of new stuff. Building up to this will spread out the impact and give them the opportunity to get used to everything.
Introducing bigger items is particularly important. The pushchair, crib, highchair and car seat can be intimidating to a dog the first time they see them so let them become normal, everyday items.
If you are going to limit where your dog can go with baby gates, this should also be done in advance of the birth. Block off anywhere the dog won’t be allowed to go and restrict the access. This will give them plenty of time to get used to their new limitations.
Some people recommend bringing in a blanket your baby has been wrapped in and even playing baby sounds for the dog to get used to. Although the merits can be debated, it will do no harm so may be worthwhile.
Go Slow with the Introduction
When you do introduce the dog and baby, take your time and go slow. If the mother has been in the hospital for a couple of days or more, it’s wise to let them go in to see the dog first for the hyper welcome home.
Once the dog has settled down, the father or someone who your dog know should bring the baby in. Sit down with the baby in a safe position and let your dog approach them in their own time. Never thrust the baby on them.
The dog will likely approach the baby and sniff the new smell. Stay calm and let them investigate. Make sure to give your dog the attention they would normally receive and don’t make a big deal out of the meeting.
If you have a hyperactive dog, it might be worthwhile to take the dog out for a long walk before they meet the baby for the first time. Try to tire them out as much as possible so they’re more docile.
Treat Good Behaviour
As it will likely be a completely new thing for your dog to meet and interact with a baby, it’ll be hard for them to know what’s right and wrong. Make sure you reward their good behaviour with praise and treats to show them when they’re behaving.
Like with all dog training, your dog will respond better to positive reinforcement rather than punishment. Treats are the best way to show them you’re happy with them.
Don’t Force Anything
Both during the first meeting and the early stages, don’t force anything on either your dog or your baby. If they’re uncomfortable with anything, remove either the dog or baby from the situation.
Your dog will likely need some alone time every once in a while. Let them take themselves away from the baby to a neutral place or their own bed. Give them space and they’ll begin to come around.
Always Supervise Contact
Never leave your dog and baby unsupervised. Even if the two are all cuddled up, sleeping on the couch, make sure you don’t leave the room and keep an eye on them. If you do need to leave, take either the dog or baby with you.
If you’re planning on taking a nap or in a position where you might fall asleep, make sure the baby is in a safe place away from the dog.
Avoid Being Overbearing
Dogs are curious by nature. Let them investigate your newborn without interfering and being too on edge. Dogs can sense moods and anxiety so keep your demeanour calm and this will help your dog stay calm.
Know Your Dog
Every dog has its own personality and personal traits. Always pay attention to how your dog is acting and look out for telltale signs that they’re stressed or uncomfortable.
Growling and barking are the most common signs but there are others. A lowered tail, stiff or hunched back as well as tucked back ears are just a few signs they may be unhappy with something.
Don’t Scold the Dog
Try not to scold your dog, especially during the first couple of weeks. This can lead to resentment, negative associations and, in some cases, a rivalry in your dog’s head with the baby. If they misbehave, stay calm and gently remove the dog or baby from the situation rather than shouting or punishing.
Give Your Dog Plenty of Attention
To help keep your dog happy, maintain the amount of attention you gave them before the arrival of the baby. Whether that’s greeting and fussing over them, playing or just cuddling up for a stroke, try not to let this slip.
When it comes to visitors popping round to see your baby, if they usually give your dog attention, make sure they greet the dog before the baby. This will prevent the dog from feeling pushed out.
Dogs are creatures of habit. They like to have a routine so they know what they’ll be doing day to day. When you bring a newborn into your home, you’ll likely have to reduce or change the walk time etc. If you do have to reduce the amount of time you spend with your dog, you should slowly reduce the time before the baby comes. Cut down on the length of the walk and change the time to suit the expected new routine.
Don’t Let Your Baby Play with Dog Toys
There are two main reasons you shouldn’t allow your baby to play with the dog’s toys. Firstly, dog toys are usually pretty unsanitary. Your dog will carry them in its mouth, passing on germs from wherever they have been.
The second reason is that your dog may act in a possessive way with their things, causing them to growl or snap. Even if your dog doesn’t have a history of possessive behaviour, a new family member that they don’t 100% understand can cause some confusion and unsettled feelings.
The same applies to the dog’s food, treats, bed etc. Keep your baby separate, especially when they start to crawl and walk.
Teach Your Child How to Behave with the Dog
As you raise your child, teach your child to respect dogs and all other animals. Show them how to play with dogs and what they shouldn’t do like pull tails and ears, touch eyes etc.
Show them games they can play like fetch and tug of war. You can also teach them how to give the dog commands like “Sit” and show them how to stroke dogs how they like it.
They should learn how to tell if the dog isn’t happy with something they’re doing and any warning signs. If your dog reacts negatively to anything, teach your child to stop whatever they’re doing.
When it comes to other dogs, teach them not to approach a dog without supervision and permission from the owner. Reach in with a face-up palm as to not intimidate a new dog.
This post was contributed by David Atkinson from Icon Wall Stickers. If you’re an animal lover, why not decorate your home with an animal wall mural.