The Dog & New Baby; Introducing Your Dog To A New Baby
Since we just had a beautiful new baby girl just last week, I thought it was a good time to write up how to introduce your dog to a new baby in the house.
When the time comes to bring home your new baby, you will be excited and nervous all at the same time. One thing that may weigh heavily on your mind is how your dog may react. Will he be jealous and become aggressive to the infant? Will he be overly excited and accidentally injure the baby? How will you be able to control your dog and care care for a new child simultaneously? The answer is all in the preparation and control of introductions.
Prepare Yourself & Your Dog
In the weeks before you new baby’s arrival, you should prepare your dog with obedience training. Go beyond the simplicity of sit and stay, and work on boundary control and other needed commands. Your dog’s repertoire should consist of ‘drop it,’ ‘leave it,’ ‘go to bed/crate’ and ‘wait.’ This will help you keep your dog under control whenever you drop an item or food on the floor and to get him out of the way when you need to get from one point to another safely without stepping over him. Telling him to wait is another means of control, as you can stop him from running out an open door or any other impatience behavior he is doing at that moment.
With all these controlling commands that the both of you should know, you will also need to prepare for the major schedule change. Just because a new human family member is coming home does not mean your dog’s needs get to be pushed to the back burner. On the contrary, in order to keep behavioral problems at bay his exercise and stimulation needs must be kept up as normal, or maybe even increased! Because of the major changes, your dog will be effected too, not just yourself. He can quickly become bored or frustrated if he cannot be taken on a walk to burn off his energy.
Dogs smell good, I mean, real good. They can associate smells and make connections. Think of police drug dogs. They know the smell of they are to find and know what to do when they smell it. I hate to put babies and drugs in the same article but it kind of works the same way.
When your baby is born, one of the first things the nurse will do is place a hat on your new arrival before they are even cleaned. you can have your husband or other family member take that hat (or a blanket) home a day or two before they baby comes home. Give the babies hat or blanket to your dog. When you do so, do it in a calm way. Talk to your dog and tell him “easy” in a calm voice. Don’t let your dog play with it. Take a couple minutes to get them settled down if needed. Let them sniff it, etc. Leave it with them when you leave the house. If your dog does chew on it, that is okay. The point is to introduce your babies smell to him. If you could bring home something else the next day, it is even better. Two days with your babies smell before they come home. If you can’t do this, that is okay as long as you get them something with the babies smell.
A Calm Intro
It is important to keep the initial introductions between your dog and baby as calm and controlled as possible. You will be able to really work on the wait command during this, so be sure to have a handful of very high value treats ready to go. Begin with your dog on leash, and everyone involved in a calm and positive mind set. Anyone who is nervous or anxious can bring out that energy into your dog, which can lead to a stressful introduction. It is a good idea to have someone go into the house first and let the dog outside to potty and get the initial excitement of welcoming you home out of the way.
With your dog on leash, stay a few feet back from the baby. Let him sniff the air and listen to the sounds the baby makes. All of this is very new and strange to him, so he may be excited or scared. Whenever he calms down, which may take several minutes, give him a bite of the high value treat. You are taking some of his excitability away from the baby and onto the positive reinforcer. Whenever he is calm and totally under control, you can take a step or two towards the baby. Again, wait if he gets overly excited and reward him when he is calm.
Continue with this regimen of rewarding only calm behavior until you are close enough to the baby that the dog can just barely not touch him or her. When he is completely calm and relaxed, his reward should let him sniff the baby. This is what he has worked so hard to do, after all. He can explore the baby, safely, for a few moments then should be asked to turn his attention towards you for a reward once again.
For the best, safest results during this entire sequence your dog should be thoroughly exercised beforehand. A dog who has all of his energy out is actually more receptive to learning and will be more relaxed. This will set him up to succeed and the whole process may go much quicker than you expect!
You should watch the interactions between you dog and baby at all times until you feel comfortable that everything is okay. Dogs may be a little too lovable with new babies as well. Our dog is very “into” our new daughter Paisley. He likes to go up and comfort her when he thinks she needs something. His way of comforting her is to lick her right in the face. Cute, but not something we want until she gets a little older.
If you would like more tips, check out our follow up article called I’m Pregnant… How Do I Tell My Dog?
How was your dog with a new baby in the house? Share in the comments below!
I started newdogowners.com for one simple reason, to help prepare new dog owners for owning a new puppy. My goal is to help stop the passing around of dogs. The forever home, should be a dog's first home.
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