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Many couples begin their family together with a dog and while this dog is their first child they often become concerned when they decide to add a human child to their family. Their concerns often times revolve around how their dog will react to having a new baby in the household and it is not uncommon for new parents to be concerned that their dog will harm their new child. As it happens; however, the majority of family dogs react very well to a new baby in the household and while it may be a new situation for the dog they adapt well and most of the time they adapt more quickly than the parents do. Dogs care for their pack and as your dogs pack when you bring a new pack member home your dog will respect that member as a part of the pack. When issues do occur it is often because parents allow the dog to become confused about the new babies place in the family pack and this can be prevented quite easily by understanding how to introduce your dog to the newest member of the family is key.
Early Steps to Take with your Dog
When it comes to preparing your dog for a new baby there are quite a few steps that you can take to help make the transition a positive one for your dog. It is important to put in as much effort and time as possible to prepare your dog to accept your new baby in a positive way because neither your baby nor your dog are going anywhere so it is best to help the family to live in harmony. Some of the steps that you can take to help your new babies transition in to the home a positive one include: introduce your dog to children, set up your nursery and baby proof your household, prepare for babies arrival with as many supplies as possible, utilize a crying baby doll, arrange for care for your dog during your time in the hospital, introduce your dog to the baby’s scent before the baby comes home, return home to greet your dog before introducing the baby, allow someone to introduce the baby to the dog while you accompany the dog, and finally never ever leave a dog alone with a baby or child.
The first and most important step in preparing a dog for a new baby is to make sure that the dog is familiar with children in general. Children can be a scary concept to dogs that are not familiar with such small people and so it is important to expose a dog to children at the earliest age possible. Exposure to children can include monitored visits with family children, neighbor children or simply visits to the park. Children should be encouraged to approach the dog slowly and hold out their hands to allow the dog to become familiar with their scent. Once the dog has smelled the child’s scent allow the child to stroke the dog gently, preferably on their shoulders or ears. Exposing dogs to children as often as possible will make children a common feature of every day interactions and will reduce the likelihood that your dog will become startled by the appearance of a baby in their home.
Establishing the Baby’s Nursery
Setting up the nursery in your home is an important step to show your dog that changes are taking place in the home. Not only will setting up your nursery allow your dog to see that something is changing but it will also allow him the chance to investigate the nursery and take in the new smells of the baby’s new room. For a dog, scents are a particularly important factor of life and to be able to investigate the babies nursery and the new smells of the nursery ahead of time will help to reduce the curiosity of your dog once your new baby comes home. By showing your dog what to expect in the nursery and allowing them to look around and get used to changes you will reduce the chance that your dog will be increasingly curious about the nursery later on. It is also important at this time to begin baby proofing your household. Baby proofing includes the addition of baby gates throughout the house. It is important to teach dogs about the baby gates and other new changes around the house that are designed to protect your new baby. While baby gates may not be particularly scary items they are different items to your dog and it is important that they learn about them and their existence before the baby comes home to prevent the introduction of too many new stimuli at once.
Introducing Baby Items to the Dog
In addition to creating the nursery and baby proofing the house ahead of time it is also important to introduce new items that will be vital for your baby such as diapers, cleaning supplies, bottles etc. All of these items carry a unique scent and by introducing those in to the house before baby comes home you are allowing your dog time to investigate the new items. It is important; however, to remember that dogs often times investigate with their mouths and some dogs have a particular taste for diapers so make sure that your dog can smell but not eat these items with an introduction that you facilitate.
Preparing Your Dog for Baby Noises
One of the biggest changes that occurs in the household with the introduction of a new baby is the noise level. For a dog the introduction of a crying baby in to a house that was previously rather quiet can be startling. One of the best ways to introduce your dog to the new addition of a baby is to utilize a crying baby doll. Not only will this item introduce your dog to the noise made by a crying baby but it will also introduce your dog to the idea of a small human baby. If you are unable to find a crying baby doll you can utilize a recording of a baby crying and a silent baby doll. When you are at home with your dog you should treat the baby doll like a real child and carry it, hold it, feed it, change it etc just as you would with your baby once it comes home. You dog should become used to these routines even before you return home with your baby so that when you are taking part in these daily chores with your newborn your dog will not show as much curiosity.
Another important thing to remember to take care of when you are expecting a new baby in the home is to arrange for someone to care for your dog while you are in the hospital. It is likely that you and your spouse will be living at the hospital for at least a couple of days so make sure that your dog has someone to care for it or somewhere to stay where it will be comfortable. The aim of making an easy transition for a dog is to change as little as possible in their routine so if you have someone who usually cares for your dog when you go out of town try to utilize this person when you are in the hospital during the birth of your child.
Introducing the Baby’s Scent to the Dog First
Some parents like to introduce their dog to the actual scent of their baby rather than just the scent of the baby’s nursery. Parents will do this by buying a new blanket and taking it to the hospital with them for the birth of their baby. Wrapping the baby in the blanket they make sure that the blanket picks up the baby’s scent and then the place the blanket in to an airtight bag to bring back home for the dog to investigate. At home the blanket can be placed either on the floor or in the nursery and the dog should be allowed to investigate the scent thoroughly. Some families believe that it is more helpful to wrap the baby doll in this scented blanket and while this can be helpful the important thing is really to allow your dog to investigate the baby’s scent.
The Homecoming Event
Homecoming is usually the biggest issue for new parents, they are concerned about how the dog will take to the new baby; however, this should not be a particularly difficult occasion when approached in the right way. Every dog in a household has one person that they are closest to and upon returning home the new baby should not be held by this person, instead this person should come in to the house and greet the dog as they usually would. After being greeted the new baby should be brought in to the home by the other parent and after everyone has settled the dog should be allowed to investigate the baby with mom and dad’s permission. At this point some parents tend to panic and try to shoo their dog away from the new baby or instruct the dog to leave the baby alone, this is not an effective technique and should be avoided. Just like young children when told to leave something alone dogs only become more and more curious. By allowing the dog to investigate you will reduce the amount of curiosity and reduce the likelihood of the new baby becoming a “big deal” to the dog. Generally dogs will want to sniff the baby and may nudge the baby with their nose or even lick the baby. For the most part, unless the baby was born with a particularly weak immune system or other health concern, these actions are perfectly fine and are a normal investigation process for your dog. Denying your dog the opportunity to get to know your child will not only increase their curiosity but it may also breed resentment of the addition of this new creature in to the family. Just like other human children, dogs can become jealous so it is important to treat your dog the same way that you always have, keep their routine as stable as possible and do not exclude them from the celebration of the newest life in the family.
A Gentle Transition Will Work Out Better for Everyone
More often than not parents over react to the stressful even of bringing home a new baby. While this occasion is particularly difficult to cope with being that it involves an entirely new routine to life, it can be made easier by a much more gentle transition. A gentle transition involves every member of the family being ready for the new addition in both changes in routine, changes in sound and changes in scent. The more adapted the entire family is to the new changes to come the easier this great transition will become. The truth of the matter is that there are very few things to be worried about when introducing a family dog that is well socialized and well behaved to a new baby in the family. The real concerns of this situation are not those of the dog taking to the new baby, they should be those of the dog accidentally suffocating the baby because of their over affectionate nature or leaving the baby alone with the dog. No dog, no matter how well behaved and no matter how old, should ever be left alone in a room with a dog. Even when rushing to the bathroom and only being out of the room for a minute can give more than enough time for an accident to happen. Most often than not these accidents occur when toddlers wake a sleeping dog, snatch a treat or toy from the dog or accidentally step on the dogs tail or limbs causing an instinctive pain reflex and the nipping or biting of the individual that caused the situation. Very rarely do these situations occur but when they do they are situations that can always be avoided by utilizing common sense. The rule of thumb when living with a baby is to never ever leave the baby alone in a room with a dog that can reach the baby because even the most trusted dogs can have accidents and even the most well behaved babies can instigate them.
The information contained in this article and website is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional safety advice; it is provided for educational purposes only.