What’s your dog to do when there’s a new kid in town? Dogs and newborns can become best buds, but it will take some work on your part to ensure everything goes smoothly. Of course, your newborn’s safety is your number one priority, but there are many other issues to consider when it comes to your pup — he’ll need to adjust to new routines, sounds and very likely need some behavior modifications. We’ll help you think ahead so the transition can be as seamless as possible and keep all family members happy and healthy.
Everyone loves the wholesome image of a child growing up alongside a pet and, as it turns out, there are a lot of mental and physical benefits for children who grow up with pets, too! According to the Animal Health Foundation, studies have shown that kids exposed to cats and dogs as infants have significantly less risk of developing allergies and asthma later in life.1
In addition to the physical benefits of pet ownership, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry notes that pets can teach children important life lessons about responsibility, trust, love, compassion, loss, and empathy, as well as improving a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence.2 Having pets in the home has also been shown to reduce blood pressure, alleviate stress, and even improve depression – benefits that the whole family can enjoy.
Finding The Right Pet
For parents considering adding a pet to their family, choosing the right fit is essential. Although a new puppy or kitten is adorable, they are also a lot of work and may not be the right fit for a busy family that does not have enough time for training and socialization. Working with a well-informed rescue or adoption agency and your veterinarian is a great way to find a pet that will be best suited to your family’s needs and lifestyle. Be sure to look for a pet that is comfortable around children and introduce your new friend to the family gradually to reduce the risk of conflicts. With patience and lots of positive reinforcement, your new furry friend will soon be part of the family!
You have nine months to get everything ready for your newborn, and preparing your dog for how your new family member will impact his lifestyle is crucial to an easier transition for your pup. Yes, there’s a lot of prepping to do all around, but your dog is an important part of your family, and there are certain issues you should address ahead of time — once your newborn is home, your time and attention span will be limited, to say the least!
Teach Your Dog New “Tricks”
If you haven’t already trained your pup to follow basic commands, now’s the time to start. In addition to sit, down, wait, stay and settle, which all help your dog control his impulses, he should also know leave it and drop it. These commands will help when the dog wants baby’s play toys as his own. Other important skills to teach your pup around a baby are no jumping up and crate time. If you haven’t crate trained your dog, you should consider it with a newborn coming. The crate can be a safe, secure place for dogs, and a place for your pup to go if your eyes aren’t on your newborn, even for a few moments.
A Change In Schedule
Most dogs crave a daily routine and come to expect your home schedule as part of their settled and happy life. But, when you introduce a newborn into the picture, there are sure to be changes. A couple of months before your due date, it’s important to try to incorporate a new routine into your dog’s daily expectations. Easier said than done, right? Try to wean your dog off constant attention. Adjust his walk times to when you anticipate you’ll walk with your newborn in the stroller. Family bedtime will likely change as well.
House Rules Reconsidered
Consider some of the changes you might need to make with your new family member. Do you want the dog sleeping on the bed with you anymore? Will he still be welcome on the couch and other furniture if your baby is there? Has your dog had access to your new nursery? Pet expert Cesar Millan recommends keeping the baby’s nursery off-limits, at least initially, and then only allowing your dog access with your supervision.
New Sights, Sounds, And Smells
If your pup doesn’t adjust well to new sensory triggers in your home, you should try to acclimate him a couple of months before your due date to the changes coming. Some experts suggest purchasing a baby doll that cries and moves like a newborn to get your dog used to a different home environment. Place the doll on the floor, in the crib or hold the doll, so your dog gets a sense of what’s coming. And using a doll can be a great training tool.
There’s a key word here — slowly. Take baby steps when it comes to major changes in your home, especially if you have a dog that suffers from anxiety.
It’s important to think about what you’ll do as soon as you walk in the door with your newborn. As a dog owner, you know they pick up on your own emotions and reactions, so keep this in mind when you first get home with your new family member. When you walk through your door with your new bundle of joy, make sure you’re happy and relaxed. Greet your dog as you normally would when coming home.
When it’s time to introduce your dog to baby, don’t force it. It’s important that your dog takes his time to approach your baby. Make sure your dog is leashed and someone else is handling him. If possible, go to a quiet place where there are no other distractions or noises so your dog doesn’t get anxious or riled up. Sit down with your baby in your arms and have your handler bring your pup just inside the room. Again, you should be relaxed and talk to your pup with a loving tone in your voice. Let your dog sniff your baby’s feet and praise him for his good behavior. Depending on your dog’s general temperament, you may want to limit introductions to short periods of time and gradually get him used to his new brother or sister.
What if Your Dog Gets Aggressive?
Although a majority of dogs can be eased in with your lead, some have difficulty. If your pup shows any signs of aggression or other questionable behavior around your baby, separate dog and baby immediately – it’s time to seek professional help. Find a dog trainer or behaviorist in your area that has experience in addressing aggression in dogs. Don’t let your dog near your baby until you and your trainer are confident that the dog’s behavior has been modified.
More Tips From Animalist
The following video, courtesy of Discovery Channel’s Animalist, is a must-watch before you bring your new baby home.
Dogs And Newborns Can Work For Sure
As expecting or new parents, it can be stressful to think about introducing baby to dog. But with careful planning, behavior modification, and patience, your “children” can all live happily together in the same home. Dogs and newborns can start developing a bond early on that will last a lifetime (we also have an article about how you can better bond with your new dog). If you’re looking to add a furry friend to your household and don’t know which breed to get, check out our article on family-friendly dogs.
What tips do you have for expecting families when introducing dog to baby?