Bringing a new baby home is one the happiest and most life-changing events that we can experience as humans. It is a time that is filled with so much joy yet requires a shift in how we do things in our home. Because as humans we have a tendency to project our feelings onto our dogs, we assume that Fido is going to be just as thrilled with the new arrival as we are. Unfortunately, your pooch can sometimes get lost and even briefly forgotten amidst all of the loving chaos that surrounds a new baby. In an effort to help make this transition easier for you, your new bundle of joy and your loyal pooch, NuVet thought we would share some helpful information on how to introduce your dog to a new baby.
Phase 1: Before baby comes home
Evaluate your relationship with your dog. Try to envision what life will be like after your baby is home. Dogs like routine. Ask yourself, will you be able to maintain this routine as closely as possible and if not, how come? If you will need to alter your routine and can see where, try and put this new routine in place as soon as possible to get your dog familiar with it. You may also have to ask yourself the hard question of whether or not you feel your dog’s personality will mesh well with that of a small child. If you have concerns about your dog’s behavior being a problem, it might be time to get some professional help. If you are unsuccessful even after getting special assistance from a trained expert, you may need to find a new home for your dog. Ultimately, your goal is for everyone to feel safe and loved.
Also, keep in mind that pregnancy can be an emotional roller coaster; sometimes we are not able to control these emotions but always remember that our dogs are able to sense our feelings and mirror them. Try to always maintain your alpha status and remain as calm as possible. If you are feeling stressed and anxious, your dog will as well, and this is not the how you want your dog to be feeling when you bring baby home. Prior to baby’s homecoming it may be a good idea to get a doll and pretend like it is your new baby. Treat the doll like a real baby. It might feel strange and weird but it will get your dog used to you carrying around this unfamiliar little object. Reward your dog with good behavior.
Lastly, after you have had your baby and right before you bring your little bundle of joy home, bring something containing your new baby’s scent home for the dog to be exposed to. This can be an article of clothing, burp cloth or even a blanket. Let your pup smell it at a safe distance, by doing this you are setting a boundary for your dog that this is a scent you smell at a distance.
Phase 2: When baby first comes home
On the day of your baby’s arrival home, make sure your pooch has been well exercised. By doing this you are helping your dog get rid of any excess energy. Before you enter your home with the baby make sure Fido is leashed. This is important regardless of how you think your pooch will react. Right upon entering your home, hand your baby off to your spouse or a trusted individual nearby. Make sure to stay calm and maintain your leadership. If you are fearful or nervous, your dog will know it. Say hello to your dog, who is probably super happy to see you after your absence. Next, have the baby returned to you and allow your dog to smell the baby from a safe distance. Make sure to have treats on hand so you can reward good behavior your dog is exhibiting. Keep in mind that you want your dog to associate your baby with good things not with you feeling anger or fear.
Phase 3: Part of the Pack
Once baby is home make sure to remain confident and maintain your alpha status. You must remain the pack leader. Also don’t hesitate to set up boundaries around your home where your canine family cannot go, like the baby’s room. Baby gates can be helpful for this. Designating the nursery as a no-go place for Fido prior to baby’s arrival is also a good idea, if that is what you decide. Remember to maintain the routine you had established prior to baby coming home. This familiarity will help keep you and your dog happy. Don’t forget to reward good behavior. Remember to never leave your baby or toddler alone with your dog regardless of how loving or patient you know your dog to be, as even the sweetest dogs have been known to bite or act out of character. Finally, as soon as your child is old enough to understand, teach her to always be gentle and kind with her canine family and to never pull his tail, ears or fur.