How to Introduce a Dog to a New Baby
Having a Baby; Already Had a Dog
The problem in many new family and couples is how to introduce the family pet to the new baby. You want to make the transition as smooth as possible without any fatalities.
The family dog may be a great natured dog to adults and older children, but have you ever had him around a newborn?
To dogs, babies are not human. They sound different, smell different, and act different. You have to find the best way to introduce you dog, your beloved family pet, to the newest member of the family.
Don't give up and just pack away your pooch. That's not fair.
Dogs and Babies
Naturally, dogs tend to be very curious of babies. They're new and different. But, you want to monitor every single interaction with your dog and the new baby.
Babies can be accidentally hurt by a curious dog nudging, prodding and kissing at the baby.
Dogs can accidentally smother a baby lying for his nap. Knock over the crib. Anything can potentially happen.
It's up to you, the adult, to monitor and prevent any accidents.
Don't worry too much, on average there are actually very few infants hurt or killed by the family pet each year.
Making the Introductions
Getting Ready for the Baby
You should start prepareing your dog for the baby's arrival months beforehand.
You may consider reducing the amount of attention towards the dog a few months prior to the baby's birth. In many cases, after a new baby is brought home, dogs may begin to misbehave, which could be the cause of jealousy and the sudden lack of attention. Make sure not to neglect the dog, but don't devote all your spare time to him either; this will help the transition of attention go a little smoother, meaning hopefully he won't act out after the child is born.
Make sure that your dog knows his basic obedience commands, such as sit, stay, down, leave it, and come when called, as these simple commands can be a no- brainer saver for your baby. Make sure that the dog is 100% reliable, not just sometimes reliable because you don't want a false sense of security when a big dog and a small baby. You need to make sure that you can trust that the dog sits and stays while you tend to the baby, instead of rushing towards the baby when it cries.
Start using the commands while you pretend to do baby activities, such as rocking the baby to sleep, changing a diaper, and feeding times. Use a baby doll, to resemble a newborn baby. Have the dog sit and stay or down and stay while you rock the baby to sleep; this prevents the dog from jumping in your lap with the baby in your arms.
The dog needs to know self control, so using a baby doll helps the reality of the situation. Finding a doll that cries and makes "funny" baby sounds may help your dog get accustomed to the strange sounds that will soon be his reality.
You want to expose your dog to everything baby. Don't throw it all at him at once, but a gradual exposure will work best. Make sure that all situations are in a controlled environment.
Introduce your dog to real babies and infants, so he can get accustomes to the sounds, movements, and smells of a real baby versus a plastic one. In these situations, make sure that the child's safety is secured. Make sure that your dog is reliable with his commands before attempting this exercise.
When the baby is born, you can bring home blankets and clothes to get the dog familiarized with the baby's scent before you actually bring the baby home.
Bringing the Baby Home
When the newborn comes home for the first time, it's best that the mother greets the dog first without the baby. Let the baby's father or another family member hold the baby, while the mom greets the family dog. This prevents the dog getting reprimanded for the first time that the baby walks through the door.
Allow the dog to get used to the new smells and sounds of the baby before you ever try to introduce the dog to the newborn. Let the dog settle down before true introductions are made.
When you are ready to introduce the dog and the new baby, make sure that one parent is holding the baby and the other the dog.
Make sure that the dog is leashed, and put in a sit/ stay command. You may want to start with the dog 10 feet away, and gradually move the dog closer and closer to the parent holding the baby.
Only begin to move closer if the dog is acting calm, otherwise let the dog relax before moving forward. This may take several sessions before you are able to let the dog get close enough to the baby; it may take even longer if the dog has had prior aggression problems.
Always use caution when introducing a baby to a dog for the first time.
Do not unleash the dog for several days when around the baby. You want to make sure that the dog will not jump on or harm the baby.
After the First Few Days
No matter how well you think the introductions have gone, NEVER EVER, leave your new baby and your dog together unsupervised.
You want to take extra precautions when the baby is crying or moving his arms and legs. Dogs are still predators, and may want to investigate these strange behaviors or even leap on the child.
In these cases, put the dog in a down/ stay on the other side of the room.
You dog may start to act up after you've brought the new baby home, as discussed before, but if you were able to properly slacken the amount of attention prior to the baby's birth, the dog shouldn't act as poorly. Just make sure to keep your dog on his normal schedule of feeding, playing, and exercise. Although, it may be a big adjustment at first, it should keep your dog behaving properly, or as normal, versus misbehaving.
You may want to invest in dog gates, to block off areas where the baby may be so that the dog cannot sneak in without you there to supervise. This allows you to leave the door open, so you can still hear the baby, but keeps the dog out of the room.
In the end...
Make sure that you make this change in your dog's life a positive one. Periodically, put your dog in a sit/ stay and reward him with a treat. Make sure to be holding the baby, while you do this. In the dog's mind, it should elicit the thought, "baby, sit, stay, treat."
You know your dog and his behaviors, so you know what you should look for in any signs of aggression or attitude. Keep this in mind when the dog is around or in hearing range of the baby.
Dogs will often actively check on and investigate a new baby, so make sure to take all precautions necessary, and never allow the dog around the new baby unsupervised.