When expecting a newborn, you might be wondering how to facilitate a safe interaction between dogs and babies. Follow these simple tips for introducing newborns and dogs and how to develop a loving and mutually respectful relationship between the two.
Before the baby arrives:
- Establish that you are the alpha dog, and that your pup obeys your commands. If you haven’t already, consider enrolling in an obedience training class with your dog.
- Break your dog of any undesirable habits. Does your dog bark at the mailman or jump on every person she meets? Break her of the habit now, before it becomes a bigger problem.
- Your pets will likely sense that something is changing. Help put their mind at ease by keeping their routine as normal as possible. If you’ve always walked your dog in the morning, continue to do so.
- Establish any areas that are off-limits, prior to the baby’s arrival. Don’t want the dog in the baby’s room? Teach her that the nursery is off-limits. If this doesn’t work, consider using baby/pet gates to block access to any restricted areas.
- Help your pet get used to baby sounds and baby activities. Play recordings of a baby crying, turn on the swing or mobile or carry around a swaddled doll.
- If possible, invite friends with babies and young children to visit prior to your due date so your pet grows accustomed to your home being filled with dogs and babies. Remember to never leave newborns and dogs alone together.
- Plan to use a stroller? Practice with the dog ahead of time. Take the empty stroller (and dog) out for walks to help get pup used to the stroller’s wheels and other noises. If you find that the stroller and dog are too hard to handle, consider asking your spouse, friend or neighbor to be your daily walking buddy.
After the baby arrives:
- Before you bring baby home, send someone to visit your dog with a beanie, blanket or other article of clothing worn by the baby to introduce the dog to your baby’s scent.
- When you come home, ask your spouse, significant other or a family member to carry your baby into the house for the first time, after you’ve greeted your dog as usual.
- When you introduce the baby, be sure you are in control of the situation. Allow the dog to sniff the baby from a distance first, to establish that the baby’s boundaries must be respected. If the dog misbehaves, calmly remove her from the room and try again at a later time.
- It’s also important to teach your child to respect your pets so the dogs and babies get along! Young children should be taught the proper way to interact with a dog. Yanking on tails, pulling on ears and other such interactions are unacceptable and can provoke even the gentlest of dogs.
Throughout the whole process, keep in mind that positive reinforcement can go a long way. Be sure to reward your dog every time she exhibits proper behavior with your baby. And of course, be sure to designate playtime for your pet. Your pet’s need for exercise, stimulation and affection hasn’t changed just because there’s a new kid in town!