While after nine months you might feel more than ready for your baby to arrive, your dog might be a little shocked to meet the new roommate. But if you take time before and after the pregnancy to acclimate your dog and baby to each other, practice discipline with them, set boundaries in your environment, and show some love, then this transition can be smooth and pain-free.
Here are some tips to accomplish these four goals and create a home that’s safe for both your dog and baby.
Consistency in habits and behavior is key to helping your pet feel safe and not threatened throughout this transition. Anticipate any schedule changes (When will your dog be walked, fed, given treats, or played with? And who will do it?), and start easing the dog into these new habits before your baby is born. If you plan on taking baby on your walks, you can even practice walking your dog with an empty stroller! It may sound silly, but simple changes like this can help both you and your dog get used to any new arrangements before the baby arrives.
Introduce the Baby’s Scent
If possible, bring a piece of clothing, a blanket, or a burp cloth with your little one’s scent home from the hospital to introduce the new smell to your dog before your new addition arrives. Hold the cloth and let your dog sniff it but not chew or play with it. This will help to associate a sense of care and control with baby’s scent.
Greet Your Dog Alone First
When first bringing baby home, greet your dog alone or snap on a leash and take the dog on a walk before introducing them to the baby. This will minimize the chance of your dog jumping on or towards baby in surprise or pent up excitement.
Gradually Increase Proximity
Once baby is home, carefully supervise interactions between your pet and baby and gradually bring them nearer to one another. Keep your dog leashed and stand across the room from them. Once they’re calm, you and the baby can move closer. Reward your pet with treats or praise for good behavior, and don’t feel rushed—allow the connection to happen naturally. When you’re confident in your dog’s behavior, remove the leash and supervise a meeting in close proximity.
Do Obedience Training
Enroll your dog in obedience school, or hire a trainer to teach your dog how to follow simple commands (sit, stay, “go to place,” etc.). These will prove helpful when supervising them together.
If your pet has any history of aggression, work with a trainer to eliminate it before the baby arrives.
Teach Proper Play
Supervise your child’s interactions with your dog to ensure that baby doesn’t pull on their ears or tail. This kind of behavior can trigger snapping or growling in even the most well-behaved dog.
Never leave your baby alone with your dog. This is the number one way to keep your child—and dog—safe. Accidents can occur with even the friendliest of pups, and you want to be there to stop or immediately address them.
Keep Baby off the Floor
When your dog and baby are together, always keep baby up out of your dog’s reach. This will prevent any accidental harm from playing.
Be a Barrier
Always situate yourself as a barrier between your dog and new baby—if not directly blocking access, then at least staying within a short enough distance to quickly intervene if needed.
Create Space for Your Baby
Feel free to close off your child’s sleeping area from your pet with a baby gate or other barrier. Having this safe space will lighten the need for constant supervision. Just make sure that you teach your dog to respect this place and that they can’t easily jump over or break down the barrier.
Create Space for Your Dog
Your baby isn’t the only one who needs safe space! Create a place that is specifically your dog’s place to be alone, not accessible by baby. Try a bathroom, bedroom, or laundry room with a dog bed. We all need time to decompress—your dog is no exception.
Keep Affection Consistent
Try not to dramatically alter the amount of attention you give to your pet. This may mean resisting the urge to give your dog a little extra loving before the baby comes. While it may seem nice at the time, that precedent will only make your diverted attention more jarring when baby arrives.
Spend Time with Your Dog
Make sure to devote a set amount of time to your dog once your child comes. It’s easy to be distracted by a new baby, but remember to give your dog the love they deserve. Not only is this good for your dog, but it will also keep them from resenting or becoming jealous of the baby.
Make Positive Associations with Baby
Play with your dog while your child is around so that they’ll see it isn’t a zero-sum game. There’s enough love for both baby and fur child! Likewise, praise or reward your dog with treats for appropriate behavior around the baby (sniffing carefully, playing gently). Show them that being with baby can be fun!
Avoid Negative Discipline
Don’t overly scold your dog when they’re with the baby. Quietly correctbehavior (when dog picks up baby’s toy, simply replace it with a dog toy), ignore hyperactivity by disciplining through lack of attention, and reward good behaviorwith verbal praise, treats, or play. Of course, use your judgment and restrain your pet when necessary, but try to keep the majority of interactions with your dog positive. This will keep your dog from associating your baby with negative feelings that might lead to aggression or acting out.
Most of all, be patient. Chances are your four-legged friend is just as clueless as you might feel greeting this new family member. It will likely take both of you some time to settle in. Take it slow, be careful, set boundaries, make everyone feel loved, and you’ll keep both of your little ones safe and happy.