Your dog has probably been treated like a “first child”, showered in attention, gifts, and love. Now that a new bundle of joy is coming into your life, it is important to prepare your four legged friend for the new arrival. Your home will be full of new sights, sounds, smells, and routines. So you will need a plan to keep your child safe and secure and your pet at ease with this new addition to your family.
The most important thing to remember is to not leave your dog alone with your newborn. You may be accustomed to your dog’s behaviors, but this new change in your home environment can lead to stress and actions that are not typical. Even docile dogs should not be left unattended as even gentle exploratory and curious actions could result in unintentional harm. We all enjoy a good YouTube video of a dog being gentle and protective of a baby, and those interactions should always be supervised and positively reinforced to help your dog learn the proper way to engage with your little bundle of joy.
Cement Your Alpha Role
During your pregnancy it is important to establish yourself as the alpha or pack leader of your dog. When your child arrives, your dog will be accustomed to taking cues and commands from you. Juggling the responsibilities that come with a new child and the stress caused by an undisciplined dog could be overwhelming. Taking your dog to behavior classes and ensuring that they have mastered basic commands is a great start.
Claiming your baby’s scent will help the transition as well. We all know how strong a dog's sense of smell is so setting clear boundaries for your dog when he or she smells your baby’s scent is important. You can do this with a blanket, burp cloth, or something with your child’s scent before your baby arrives home. Allow your dog to smell the scent of the item from your baby from a distance while asserting the fact that the blanket, burp cloth, or whatever you are using belongs to you. By doing this you are telling your dog this scent is under your control and you will dictate the rules on how it is treated. This exercise will help your dog develop respect for your new child. It will also help your dog become accustomed to your baby since your dog will have already be familiar with their scent.
It is important to create a safe space for your dog where he or she can escape the stress from your new child’s arrival. Find a small, secure space like a laundry room or dog crate and fill it with your dog’s favorite toys, blankets, and food/water bowl - anything that will make your dog comfortable. This gives your dog a safe quiet place to escape to if he or she is overwhelmed from the excitement created by your newborn.
The Big Meet
The actual introduction between your dog and child should be in a controlled environment. It is best to take your dog on a long walk before introducing him or her to your infant as this will put your dog into a calm, submissive state. It is very important that the body language of the person holding your baby is calm when you do allow your dog to approach your infant for the first time. Allow your dog to smell your child at a distance making sure it does not get too close during this first encounter. With each interaction you can allow your dog to get closer to your infant. This method establishes safe boundaries between your dog and new child.
Creating an area for your baby that your dog is not allowed in will help as well. Typically this is the nursery but any area that can be sectioned off and made exclusively for your newborn will do.
There are professional trainers who can assist you and your dog with “baby-readiness”. They will teach your dog how to conduct themselves around your new child and can test the temperament of your dog before your baby arrives.
Bringing your newborn home is an exciting life event for your growing family. We at WonderWoof know that with the proper preparation your dog and new child can become lifelong friends.