Bringing home a new baby is an exciting time for a family. Often, that family includes a dog, who will also be feeling the anticipation and new energy in the air. Introducing dogs to babies is an art, not a science, and every family’s approach will be slightly different. These general steps will help you lay the groundwork for bringing home a new baby and introducing her to your “first” child.
1. Solidify good manners. You have nine months to clean up any naughty habits, like nipping, jumping, and roughhousing. If needed, work one-on-one with a trainer to help ensure that your dog looks to you for direction, not the other way around.
2. Establish the nursery. As early as possible, set up the baby’s room and furniture, making it a place your pooch can go only with supervision. Train him to stay out of the nursery unless invited in–this includes when the door is open.
3. Make baby items familiar. Introduce your dog to the smell of baby powder. Set up the swing and turn it on. Push the stroller while you’re on your walks. By familiarizing your dog with these items now, they won’t be a big deal when the baby comes.
4. Set up playdates. Chances are that your dog has never seen a baby up close before! Set a playdate with a friend who has young children, so he can experience the smells and sounds (er, shrieks) that come with kids.
5. Once the baby has arrived, but before coming home from the hospital, have a friend or family member bring home something of the baby’s. A blanket or clothing item works well. Allow your dog to sniff it, but don’t let him touch or grab the item. Once he is done sniffing and has settled down, reward him with a special treat. This establishes the rule of being gentle around the baby and giving her plenty of space.
6. The week you bring home the baby, make sure your dog has lots–and we mean lots—of exercise. A tired dog is a happy, obedient dog. The more you can stick to your normal routine of walks and feedings for your pooch, the better. Easier said than done, we know, but a sense of consistency will help keep your dog from feeling alarmed or defensive about the new changes happening in the household.
Don’t get upset if your pet acts out in the first few weeks after bringing home the baby. Remember, it’s an exciting and unfamiliar experience for your dog, too! Correct any bad behaviors with a firm and confident tone, never angry or anxious. With a little effort and patience, dog and baby will soon become the best of friends.