Welcoming a new baby into your life is an exciting life event. You’ve waited for 9 months, and finally, you are bringing baby home. But if you are like me and many others, your dogs were your first (fur) babies. It’s probably really important to you that this goes smoothly.
“How to introduce your dog to your new baby?” is a question many expectant couples are looking to get right. As a proud dog mom to three large breed dogs and a human mom, I can speak from personal experience about what you can do to make this transition and introduction go as smoothly as possible. I’ve also turned to some expert sources for added advice.
Let’s learn the dos and don’ts of introducing your dog to your new baby. Above all, you know your dog’s unique personality and disposition so keep that in mind as you follow this advice and do what feels comfortable and right to you. Your dog will be picking up on your energy in the situation so confidence and comfort are key.
Give your dog time to be around the baby gear
The first step to a smooth introduction between Fido and baby starts well before the baby is born. Most expectant couples probably know by now that the tiny little infant they are preparing for seems to require a LOT of stuff. Swings, bouncers, new furniture, clothes, stuffed animals, playmats, the list goes on and on.
With a dog in your life, routine and predictability are key to their happiness. For this reason, it’s a good idea to set up the baby stuff where you expect it to be and let your dog be around the stuff. Let them sniff it and get used to its presence. One small example, our dog’s bed in the living room had to change places for the baby’s swing because of where the outlet was. We set up the swing weeks before the baby arrived to give him a chance to get used to his new bed placement.
If all the baby stuff suddenly appears and then you leave for a few days and come home with a loud, needy newborn, your pup is going to be pretty thrown off! Setting up all the baby stuff ahead of time without other big changes happening will help ease your dog into the routine and lifestyle changes that are coming.
Brush up on your dog’s basic commands
Many experts recommend revisiting basic commands and maybe even teaching a few new commands before the baby arrives. It’s important that you have good voice control over your dog before bringing your new baby home. You want to feel confident that when you ask them to sit or stay down they are going to do it (for your safety and the baby’s!).
If your dog doesn’t already have a command to go to a certain place or go lay down, this is a good time to work on that. Cracking down on training (in a positive way, of course) will strengthen your bond with your dog, provide them with a lot of mental stimulation, and make you feel more confident in your dog’s behavior before your baby arrives.
Let your dog smell the baby before they come home
One of the best things you can do before introducing your dog to your newborn is to have someone bring an article of clothing with baby’s scent on it home from the hospital before you arrive home.
For us, my husband went back and forth from the hospital a few times to hike our dogs and brought one of the baby’s hats with him. Having my husband do this was beneficial because they got special attention from him before the baby came home, and he was the one ‘delivering’ this new scent.
Give your dogs a chance to smell the baby, and leave the baby’s object in your home until you arrive home with the baby. This might be especially important if your dog has territorial tendencies or doesn’t adjust well to change in general.
Greet your dog before introducing them to baby
When the time comes to actually bring your baby home, most experts recommend that you greet your dog thoroughly and enthusiastically without the baby first. They haven’t seen you in a few days and will be very excited you are back. Once they’ve calmed down a bit you can make introductions.
Consider where and how your dog should meet baby
Deciding where and how to introduce your dog and baby will depend a lot on your individual home and your dog’s demeanor. Some things to consider about where and how to introduce your dog to your new baby:
- Would it be better (or even possible) to introduce them outside? This will depend on the weather and how territorial your dog is. We chose to introduce our husky and baby outside because she tends to get protective of our home. We wanted them to meet and walk in together
- Should my dog be on a leash during the first meet? This will depend on how jumpy, easily startled and unpredictable your dog is. On the other hand, if your dog tends to show leash aggression maybe it’s better to not have a leash. I’m team have a loose leash, just in case an issue arises so that you will have quick control
- Have another person around and always have an adult between dog and baby
- Give your dog(s) lots of positive attention as they sniff and recognize the new baby. You want them to associate this new addition with positive energy.
Additional tips to help get ready for life with a dog and a newborn
- Practice loose leash walking with your dog, and if you plan to walk your dog with the stroller often practice this before baby arrives so that you (and your dog) will be pros.
- Make sure your dog gets lots of positive attention whenever they are around the baby. Especially to reward calm, expected behavior
- Have your partner or other family member give your dog treats for laying down or being calm when you are feeding or rocking the baby. This will help your dog associate feeding/cuddle time with the baby as a time they should be low key
- Give your dog a space that is an escape from the baby and all of their things. This might be as simple as their crate or bed, or a room that you don’t bring the baby in often (if at all)
- Any time your dog takes one of baby’s toys or items (blankets, burp cloths), simply replace it with something they should have to redirect the behavior
- Make sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise and stimulation. A well-exercised dog is a happy dog and will make the whole transition go so much better!
- If you do see an uptick in negative or unwanted behavior, re-evaluate if their basic needs are being met and try to find a way to kick up their exercise and attention a notch, even if that means paying for help
- In a situation where you are concerned about your dog’s behavior or aggression towards you or the new baby, turn to a professional! In our area there is a trainer who works specifically with newborns and dogs. But more generally, any professional trainer will be able to help you work out the situation. A baby is NOT a reason to give up your dog.
With these tips, a calm attitude, and an intentional plan in place, your introduction between your dog and your newborn will go well! Just remember that this a huge change for everyone and it will take some time to find your new normal.