Many couples begin their family together with a dog. While this dog is their first “child”, they often become concerned when deciding to add a human child to their family. Their concerns frequently 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 worried that their dog will harm their new child.
However, most 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 Are Natural Protectors
- Nursery & Baby-Proofing
- Understanding Baby Noises & Scents
- The Homecoming
- How To Ensure A Gentle Transition
- See Tips In Action (Video)
Dogs care for their pack, and as your dog’s pack, when you bring a new pack member home, your dog will respect that member as a part of the group. When issues do occur, it is often because parents allow the dog to become confused about the new baby’s place in the family pack. This can be prevented quite easily by understanding how to introduce your dog to the family’s newest member.
It is essential to devote time and effort upfront towards building the relationship between your “kids”, especially since neither your baby nor dog is going anywhere. Spending more time today will allow for a lifetime of harmonious family memories. Here are a few steps that can help ensure a positive transition.
- Set up your nursery and baby proof your household
- Prepare for babies arrival with as many supplies as possible
- Utilize a crying baby doll so your dog gets familiar with this unfamiliar sound
- Arrange for care for your dog during your time in the hospital
- Introduce your dog to the baby’s scent before it comes home with a blanket
- Return home to greet your dog before introducing the baby
- Allow someone to present the baby to the dog while you accompany the dog
- Never leave a dog alone with a baby or child
The first and most critical step in preparing a dog for a new baby is to ensure the dog is familiar with children in general. Children can be a scary concept to dogs that are not familiar with such small people, so it is essential to expose a dog to children at the earliest age possible. Exposure to children can include monitored visits with family children, neighbor children, or visit a local park.
Children should always ask permission to approach a dog before they do so. Then they can be encouraged to slowly approach the dog and hold out their hands to allow them to become familiar with their scent. Once the dog has smelled the child’s scent, allow the child to gently stroke the dog, preferably on their shoulders or ears. Exposing dogs to children as often as possible will make children a common feature of everyday interactions. This will reduce the likelihood that your dog will become startled by a new baby in the home.
Setting up the nursery in your home is a big 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 them the chance to investigate the nursery and take in the new smells of the baby’s new room. For a dog, scents are a huge factor of life, and to be able to investigate the baby’s nursery and its new smells ahead of time will help reduce the curiosity when the infant comes home.
By showing your dog what to expect in the nursery and allowing them to get used to changes, you reduce the chance of increasing curiosity about the nursery later on.
Baby proofing includes the addition of baby gates throughout the house. Teach dogs about the baby gates and other protective changes for the new baby. While baby gates may not seem like particularly scary items, they are new for your dog, who may need time to adapt. Placing gates, cribs and other new item before the baby comes home can reduce the risk of canine overstimulation.
Introducing Baby Items To The Dog
In addition to creating the nursery and baby-proofing the house ahead of time, be sure to introduce other vital baby items, such as diapers, cleaning supplies, bottles, etc. All of these items carry a unique scent. Introduce them before the baby comes home, so the dog has time to investigate and familiarize itself with any new items. Remember that some dogs have a particular taste for diapers, so make sure that your dog is allowed to smell but not eat these items.
One of the biggest changes in the household with a new baby is the noise level. For a dog, introducing a crying baby into a previously quiet home can be startling.
One of the best ways to introduce your dog to the new baby is to utilize a crying baby doll. This will familiarize them with the noises of a crying baby as well as the idea of a small human baby. You can also use a recording of a baby crying along with a silent baby doll.
When you are at home with your dog, you should treat the baby doll as a real child and carry it, hold it, feed it, change it just as you would with your baby once it comes home. Your 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.
Arrange Care While You’re At The Hospital
Don’t forget to arrange for someone to care for your dog while you are at the hospital. You and your spouse will likely stay at the hospital for at least a couple of days, so make sure that your dog has someone to care for it. Read our tips for finding a reputable dog sitter.
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 travel, ask that person to help out when you are in the hospital for your child’s birth.
Introducing The Baby’s Scent
Some parents like to introduce their dog to their baby’s actual scent rather than just the smell of the nursery. Parents will do this by buying a new blanket and taking it to the hospital with them for the birth. Wrapping the baby in the blanket, they make sure that it picks up the baby’s scent and then place the blanket in an airtight bag to bring back home for the dog to investigate.
The blanket can be placed on the floor or in the nursery at home, allowing the dog to thoroughly investigate the scent. Some families believe that it is more helpful to wrap the baby doll in this scented blanket, and while this can be helpful, the main thing is to allow your dog to investigate the newborn’s scent.
Homecoming is usually the biggest concern for new parents, as they worry about how the dog will take to the new baby. However, this should not be a unsettling occasion when approached in the right way.
Every dog in a household has one person they are closest to, and upon returning home, this person should not hold the new baby. Instead, this person should come into the house and greet the dog as they usually would.
After being greeted, the infant 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 while the parents keep a watchful eye.
Some parents tend to panic and shoo the dog away from the new baby. But, this is not an effective technique and should be avoided. Just like young children when told to leave something alone, dogs only become more curious. By allowing the dog to investigate, you reduce the new baby’s likelihood 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 increase their curiosity and breed resentment of this new family addition. Like other human children, dogs can become jealous so it is important to treat your dog the same way you always have, keep their routine as stable as possible, and not exclude them from the celebration of the newest life in the family.
More often than not, parents overreact to the stressful event of bringing home a new baby. While this occasion can be particularly challenging to cope with, a more gentle transition can make it easier. This involves preparing every family member for the new addition and how it will impact routines, noise levels, and the home’s smell.
Do Not Leave Dogs Alone With Newborns
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.
No matter how well behaved or how old, no dog should ever be left alone in a room with a baby. Even rushing to the bathroom for a minute can give more than enough time for an accident to happen.
These accidents most commonly occur when toddlers wake a sleeping dog, snatch a treat or toy from the dog, or accidentally step on the dog’s tail or limbs. Unexpected behaviors like these can cause a dog to act instinctively, nipping, or biting the individual that caused the situation. These situations rarely occur, but when they do, it is difficult to remember that it likely could have been avoided by using common sense.
This video shows more helpful tips on how to keep your dog happy and healthy during the transition.
When living with a baby, the rule of thumb is to never leave it alone in a room with a dog that can reach the baby. Even the most trusted dogs can have accidents, and even the most well-behaved baby can instigate. Learn more about dogs and newborns. You might also consider looking into an online dog trainer to help with any behavioral issues or concerns before bringing home your new family member.
What are your biggest concerns about bringing your new baby home?