Introducing Your Dog To A New Baby
If you watched Lady and the Tramp as a kid, you probably remember how sad Lady was when the new baby was born and she felt neglected and unloved. While your dog probably won’t have as deep of emotions as a fictional dog, a new baby is definitely going to upturn their lifelong role of being an only child. Almost all dogs do well with a new baby, but getting them adjusted before and after the baby is born makes a huge difference in how quickly they adjust and how much stress you go through in the process.
Before the Baby Arrives
You certainly don’t have to put your dog through a preparation as rigorous as you would with a human child, but there are some things to check off your list amid your other baby preparations.
1. Get Your Dog Caught Up at the Vet
Whether you’re behind on vaccines or an exam, get it done before the baby comes! You never know what could crop up, requiring your dog to spend some time in a boarding kennel. If that situation arises, the last thing you need is a last minute scramble to get them up to date on vaccines and an examination. Getting your dog dewormed and on a flea/tick preventative will also alleviate any new-parent worries about dog-to-human transmission.
2. Polish Your Dog’s Training
If your dog is a jumper, a barker, or has any other bad habits, now is the time to curb them. A jumping dog when you’re cradling a baby is dangerous, and constant barking when you and your baby are trying to sleep is infuriating. Instilling good manners in your pup way before their human sibling comes along will save you a ton of stress and a sleepless baby.
3. Get Them Used to Staying Off of Furniture
If you plan on banning your dog from the couch or bed when the baby arrives, don’t wait for the homecoming to boot your dog from their favorite resting places. When you wait until the baby arrives and then scold your dog when they get on the furniture, you’re instilling a negative association in them. This is a behavior to train out of them long before your baby is home.
4. Have Infant Visitors
Willing friends who don’t mind bringing their baby over will help immensely. This gets dogs used to the smells and sounds of a baby, and exposing them to a temporary baby makes getting used to their permanent baby much easier.
5. Practice Routine Changes
You’ll quickly find out that there’s no such thing as a schedule with a baby, and even the most concrete routine changes day to day. Try to get you dog off of a set schedule with their walks, feeding, or bedtime because there may be some mornings where their 6 AM breakfast doesn’t happen until after 9 AM. Again, avoid coinciding these changes with the baby. Getting your dog used to these changes with no discernible rhyme or reason is much better than bringing home a baby and then changing everything about their routine.
6. Don’t Smother Them in Attention
Dogs are very much about the “right now”. It’s tempting to lavish your pup with attention for their last few weeks of being the only child, but when this ends abruptly after your baby’s birth, it’s going to be even more confusing for your dog. Keep their attention to the normal amount (it’s unlikely you’ll completely ignore your dog after your baby comes home), and if there are regular cuddle sessions at a certain time of day, try to scatter them throughout the day, starting this months before your due date.
7. Decide If the Baby’s Room is Off Limits
Some parents don’t want a dog in the baby’s room, and, hopefully, this is something you decide on long before the baby comes. If you don’t want the dog in the nursery, start training them to stay out. Put a comfortable bed or blanket outside the baby’s room and work on a good “down-stay” command. If you’re reading this article, you’re probably fine with your dog in the nursery, and in that case, give them their own corner with a bed. You’ll be in and out of the room those last few weeks washing clothes and setting up furniture, so drop a few treats randomly on their bed so they associate the room with good things.
8. Get Your Dog Used to How a Baby Acts
Even newborns will grab onto a tuft of your dog’s hair and pull once they’ve got a fistful. Desensitize your dog to having their face grabbed, their ears pulled, and annoying little hands all over them. This doesn’t mean your dog will be abused by your child, but you should start getting them used to being annoyed and handling it well without intervention.
After the Baby Gets Home
The big day has finally arrived and you’re bringing your sweet baby home. Now what? This is when all of your preparations culminate.
9. Coming Home from the Hospital
Your dog is going to be thrilled to see you come home after a day or two away. Be prepared for this! This is when your training to teach them to keep all four paws on the ground and to sit/stay becomes useful. Try not to screech at your dog if they jump up to greet you or get a peek at the baby. Use the commands you’ve been working on for the past few months before letting your dog sniff the baby, and don’t give them any positive attention until they’re sitting quietly and obediently.
10. Introducing Your Dog and Baby
Sit down on the couch and ask your dog to sit or lie down. Let them start sniffing at your baby’s feet, and after a bit, ask them to lie down and give them a treat. If they seem calm, you can let them investigate the rest of the baby, reminding them to sit or lie down if they start getting too worked up.
11. Monitor Your Dog’s Interactions with the Baby
It doesn’t matter how sweet your dog is; accidents happen. Whether it’s your dog accidentally knocking the baby off the couch, laying on top of them, or any other incident, it’s your responsibility to ensure your dog’s interactions with your baby are safe and supervised. Never leave your dog alone with your baby. Most likely, your dog will love your baby to pieces, but you can never be too careful.
Getting your dog ready for your new family member should be started before your due date otherwise you’re going to create more stress than you need. With the proper preparation, your new family can have the perfect Lady and the Tramp ending.