Updated: Mar 4, 2021
Introducing Your Dog to Your Baby
The pandemic has brought us many things and two popular ones are babies and puppies. Raising a child with your dog can be an amazing experience, but does come with its own set of challenges. If you’re planning, expecting, or have recently brought home your baby we have a few things to help set your dog and child up for success!
Before The Baby Arrives
Prepare the Environment
As you begin to bring home new baby items, keep them out and around the space as if the baby were already home. There are so many environmental changes that come with adding a new member to the family, so you will want your dog comfortable with this change before there’s an actual crying baby around and you're beyond tired. This gradual change will introduce the dog to all the items that will make up a new normal once the baby arrives and teach them how to interact appropriately with these items (i.e. baby toys are not dog toys). A few examples for prepping your house include:
leave baby toys, blankets around an even practise dropping them on the ground to establish the dogs understand that those are not their toys (ie. “Leave It”)
have the dog in a place near you while putting together a new thing like the crib, stroller, etc. and allow the dog to sniff and discover it a their own pace
keep the dog calm around all baby items to build that expectation now (ie. getting the stroller out does not mean the dog gets to party in anticipation for an outing)
walk the dog with the stroller without baby to descentize this new object on their walk and practice in a safe setting
Below are photos of staff dogs Mijah (Golden) and Georgia (Lab) learning their new environment before their baby brother's born.
After the Baby Arrives
Get Your Dog Ready
The first and arguably most important step in any social introduction your dog has is to make sure your dog is fully mentally stimulated and exercised. When your dog's mental and physical needs are met, they are more open to change and new introductions.
Be sure to have someone ready to care for your dog if you will be at the hospital for an extended period of time. It's important too that this person makes sure to physically and mentally stimulate your dog fully especially the day that the baby comes home, so the dog is ready for your return.
Bring an item of clothing or a blanket that smells like the baby home prior to the baby. Allow your dog to explore and familiarize the smell of the baby on that item; keep this calm and rewarding. If dad is coming home while mom and baby have to be at the hospital, make sure to set aside some time to take the dog for a walk and spend time with them while they already have the new baby smell on them.
The First Meeting
The exciting moment has arrived and you're hoping your dog meets their new best friend! This can be accomplished if you've planned and are willing to take things slow and calm:
Have your dog on leash when having the dog meet the baby for the first time
Make sure whoever is holding the baby to remain extremely calm and quiet
Whoever holds the leash will control the dog and first start by allowing the dog to sniff from a distance while remaining calm. If the dog remains calm they can get closer and closer to meet the baby
Keep this as natural as possible and DO NOT overmange the dog. Do not hold the dog back if they are too excited; simply get them moving away from the baby and try again once they've relaxed. Have them maintain a sit once they are done sniffing and just observe the baby.
Use verbal praise when the dog shows proper calm energy around the baby and is gentle
Do not isolate or section the dog off from the baby right away. Instead keep the dog on leash as you begin to feel comfortable with the dog's reaction to the new baby. Try to keep things as natural and calm as possible.
Below you can see Mijah and Georgia's introduction to baby Booker - prepare yourself for cuteness!
Keeping the Dog Happy
Once your dog has met the baby your work is not over! Your dog will immediately have to understand that someone else in the house (the new baby) will be needing more time and attention from you. You want to make sure that the dog does not get isolated or feel the need to be jealous. Ways to make your dog feel prioritized include:
Keep the dog included when possible at all times while remembering to create boundaries
Use place to allow the dog to remain in the same space as you and the baby to help continue reinforcing boundaries
Maintain the dogs routine by providing daily walks and consistent guidance. This will help your dog feel secure and allow them to accept the new addition to the family. Make sure the dog gets the same amount of exercise once the baby is home. It's not going to be easy now that you have an infant to care for, so if needed recruit help through family, friends or a dog walker (we may know a team of ladies that already love walking your dog haha).
A Few Things To Remember!
We know a dog with their baby sibling is the most adorable combo on Earth, but please remember that every dog and child is different. Some dogs love babies and are very tolerant of crying, grabbing, etc., while some are more sensitive. Likewise some babies are quiet and unfazed by a big doggy kiss, while some are colic criers that prefer parent only cuddles. So, if you’re planning, expecting, or have recently brought home your baby remember these tips:
Prepare the environment
Make sure your dog is fully mentally stimulated and exercised
Have all interactions be calm and progress slowly in an introduction (your dog has their entire life to love your baby)
Keep your dog's happy by maintaining their routine (this will also help tip #2)
Now do it - go be awesome parents and super dog owners at the same time! Here's Booker now as a toddler with his sisters, Mijah and Georgia, and most of the Complete K9 crew!