The excitement of a baby on the way is felt by all in the home and that includes your dog. Here are some tips to foster a smooth introduction of your new baby to your fur baby.
How to introduce your Newborn Baby to your Dog
What to do when you find out you are expecting:
Dogs like routines and consistency
If you know you are going to need to move the dog bed to the other side of the room to make room for a bassinet or that a particular room/set of stairs is going to be blocked off – go ahead and make these changes now.
Introduce baby items
Babies come with all kinds of gadgets and gizmos that make movements and sounds your dog will not be used to. Go ahead and unpack that swing or rocker. Let your dog get used to their presence first then turn on the swing and offer a high-value treat at the same time. Shake a baby rattle and offer your dog a high-value treat at the same time. You want them to associate the new sounds and movements with a positive experience that comes in the form of tasty cheese.
Introduce new smells
Let’s say Fido joins you while you are prepping the baby’s room and they seem curious about the items you are placing on the changing table. Go ahead and put some of the baby lotion on your hands and let them smell it. Dogs learn about the world around them through their nose. If they investigate now they will be in the ‘know’ and less curious later.
If your dog is already familiar with kids – great! You are already a step ahead. If your fur baby has been an only child – it’s time to introduce them to the shrieks and laughter of kids. Take your dog on a walk with a friend and their kiddoes. I’d have your friend and her kids walk in front of you by about 4 feet and offer treats to your dog when they are showing curious/calm behavior. Go to a nearby playground. Watch your dog closely and offer them high-value treats as they watch the kids run and play. Keep a close eye on your dog and don’t go too fast too soon. It’s important to monitor and take baby steps. Again, offer treats when they are showing interest, but NOT anxiety. You may want to hire a professional trainer to help you.
Stock-up on their favorite toys & treats
These will come in handy when your hands are full, but you know Fido needs some entertainment. Have that bully stick ready.
Break bad habits now
Jumping might not seem like a big deal now, but what about when you are 8 months pregnant? What if they jump up on the stroller? They could unintentionally hurt you or the baby. An old dog CAN learn new tricks – hire a professional and get crackin’ on these new good manners. I’m also a BIG advocate for the ‘BACK’ and “PLACE” commands. Teach your dog about personal space – you’re going to be glad you did when you are breastfeeding.
Line up a dog sitter for when you are in the hospital
This needs to be someone you can call at 3 am and you know they are 100% dependable. You do NOT want to be in labor and looking for a pet sitter. It takes a village – build your village. At Game Time Dog Services we have a team approach to service, so your dog will have a primary caregiver, but they will also be introduced to a back-up. This is so we can cover all of our client’s requests and needs. I also recommend setting up a few walks/sitting visits with your dog walker before your baby arrives. Then we are familiar with your dog and their needs, all hic-ups are ironed out, and we are 100% ready to care for your dog when you are welcoming your little one to the world.
What to do while you are at the hospital:
Take a baby blanket worn by your newborn to your dog
Take two if you have them. The goal of this is to introduce your dog to your baby’s smell before the baby has actually come home. Stay calm and offer the blanket to your dog to smell. Afterward, offer a treat and maybe place the blanket in their dog bed. There is a BIG difference between an initial sniff down & a recheck. A recheck is half as intense and a fraction of the time. When the baby comes home we want it to be a recheck.
What to do when you arrive home:
Enter home with CALM ENERGY & VOICE
Your dog is already going to be excited to see you, so don’t add to that excited energy. Have your partner say hello first then hand them the baby and give your dog your undivided attention for a few minutes.
Have your partner or dog walker take your dog on a long walk
This isn’t a quick walk around the block. This is a long dog walk that will burn all excitable energy and bring your dog to a calm mental state.
Sit securely and invite your dog over
This will be the recheck, but obviously a little different. Check-in with yourself to make sure you have relaxed energy, sit securely at the eye level of the dog or slightly above, and invite your dog over to smell your newborn’s feet. Start with the feet only and have your partner nearby to offer treats. If you have any concerns have your partner put the dog on a leash before inviting them over. When breastfeeding you will want to do something similar, but you won’t invite the dog over. This is where the ‘place’ command comes in helpful. Have your partner bring the dog close enough so they see what you are doing, but they are giving you your space. Put them in their ‘place’ and give them high-value treats. The treats are given to the dog when they are respecting your space and in a calm state.
Exercise is your dogs ‘happy pill’ – fill their needs with a long dog walk every day
You are going to have your hands full to say the least because you will be feeding your baby every 1 to 2 hours. Your dog has needs too and you don’t want them to act out or get jealous if they are not being met. To avoid this have your partner or hire a dog walker to take your dog for a long walk every day and make sure you are giving Fido a little bit of attention each day. After each dog walk let them meet the baby again. “Repetition is the mother of learning”
Hot points of how to introduce your Newborn Baby to your Dog:
Create positive experiences with new items, sounds, and smells with high-value treats
It takes a village – BUILD YOUR VILLAGE
(If you are having trouble finding your village consider Facebook Groups. I found a superhero group of moms on there for support and tips. Austin also has an Austin Mom’s Blog that is super helpful.)
Keep your energy calm
Long daily dog walks