Even if your dog graduated summa cum laude at obedience school, you may be feeling a bit nervous about introducing your fur baby to the new human baby that’s soon to join the family.
Dogs thrive on love and attention from their owners, so they’re naturally thrown off a bit when you new family member takes some of the spotlight. But with the right training and preparation, your dog will handle the transition like a champ.
Here are a few tips to ensure the transition of bringing home a newborn goes as smoothly as possible for your dog and the rest of the family:
1. Size up Your Dog’s Behavior
When it’s just you and your partner around, it’s easier to let bad dog habits slide. But if your dog is in a routine of eating food from the table, jumping up on the furniture, or sleeping in your bed at night, you’ll want to seriously consider changing these habits before the new one arrives. You’ll want your baby to feel safe in the space as he or she grows older, and changing habits now will make it easier for everyone.
have a pet Yorkie, which isn’t exactly an imposing breed, but he was still used to being the center of attention and therefore I wanted to be careful about introducing him to my baby. And so I paid close attention to his behavior and made note of some of his habits that could possibly be impacted by an introduction to baby (like time of day he needs to go outside, when and how often he wants to play, etc.).
2. Rearrange Your Dog’s Environment as Needed
Is your dog currently sleeping near where the baby’s crib will be? Or maybe he loves playing catch in a spot you plan to use for the baby’s toys? If so, slowly move your dog’s environment around to make it more suitable for both dog and baby. You won’t want to have to constantly reprimand your dog or move the dog out of the way when you’re caring for your baby.
In my situation, over time we gradually restricted our dog’s access to our bedroom–we wanted it to be a place where our baby could sleep uninterrupted. But since our Yorkie was used to full access to the room, it took several weeks to get him used to the new restrictions.
3. Respect Your Dog’s Needs
Remember that your dog depends on you to meet most of their needs, just like your new baby will. Even when most of your focus is on the new arrival, be sure to fulfill your dog’s needs by giving the dog a safe space to retreat in the home, continuing to take them for walks, and making time for play. If they see how much you still adore them, they’ll be much less wary of the baby that’s entered the scene.
Honestly, it was difficult as a new parent to look after the needs of a newborn and a dog on top of that. In fact, the first few weeks that baby was home we enlisted the help of a neighbor to take our dog on walks for us–this allowed us to get some more rest, while our pup still got his daily exercise.
4. Plan Your Arrival
Bringing home baby is a memorable occasion you’ve probably been dreaming about for months. To make those first moments at home as peaceful as you hope for, make sure you take your dog into account. Consider having someone babysit your dog to ease into the transition. If you want to have your dog at home waiting for you, try entering the house without the baby at first. Then cautiously introduce dog to baby and let them smell baby clothes or a blanket.
This strategy actually worked out quite well for us. Our dog gets pretty excited whenever we arrive home, so we let him calm down a little, and then allowing him to sniff around on the baby’s blanket and get used to the new smells was the perfect introduction.
You might also like, How Getting a Dog Will Teach Your Child Responsibility.
5. Ease Into a New Normal
Your dog won’t do well if everything changes overnight, so be sure to start making changes to your dog’s habits and environment well before the baby arrives. By rearranging the dog’s space slowly over time, reducing some of the attention you give your dog, and correcting any bad habits your dog might have, you’ll set the stage for a much easier transition when the newborn arrives. Be sure to make all of the changes in slow increments so your dog adapts to the process more smoothly.
Honestly, things continue to change as your baby grows and progresses through developmental stages. So while you may never have a “new normal” (at least until the kids go off to college), if you take care to allow for smooth transitions without any abrupt changes to your dog’s routine, there’s no reason why your family can’t have an even more rewarding relationship with your best friend!
Common FAQs from New Dog-Owner Parents
Here are some of the most common questions parents have about introducing a new baby to their dog:
Q: Should I consider my dog’s breed when introducing them to baby?
A: Don’t worry about breed, but take an honest look at your dog’s behavior and training. Your dog must be well-trained and disciplined if everything is going to go smoothly, regardless of their breed.
Q: What specific skills can I teach my dog to prepare them for the baby?
A: Basic obedience skills like sit, down, stay, leave it, and drop it are absolutely essential. For example, instructing your dog to lie down and stay will come in handy when you’re breastfeeding your baby.
Q: How can I prepare my dog for the first few weeks or months of having the baby home, when the schedule will likely be the most unpredictable?
A: If your pup is used to a very consistent schedule, you can begin introducing some variety. For example, vary the time you take them on walks, feed them, and play with them. Maybe even have a few trial runs of waking up in the middle of the night.
By setting proper boundaries for your dog and slowly introducing new habits, your dog will likely warm up to the new baby just fine. If the relationship seems rocky at first, don’t lose hope. Stay consistent, reward good behavior, and soon your dog and baby will be playing catch and palling around the way you always dreamed they would.