While we awaited the birth of our first baby we wondered about how our other “baby” would handle the transition. Our dog was definitely used to being the baby of the family. He’d been getting all of the love and attention for 6 years. Therefore, we wanted to make sure we did everything we could to make the arrival of the newest love of our life a smooth one. So I’m sharing a few tips to keep in mind if you’ve got these same worries!
Set Boundaries Ahead of Time
To begin with, you should think in advance of your baby’s due date about any NEW boundaries that you’ll be setting for your dog. For example, maybe there are going to be parts of the house that are off limits to the dog now. Or, perhaps you’ve always allowed them to sleep in the bed but have decided for xyz reason to move them to their dog bed. Whatever changes you may be making to your dogs current boundaries, make them ahead of time!
Don’t wait until baby has arrived to inform Fido he’s not allowed in the nursery or can’t snuggle up on the couch. If you make the changes when you bring baby home, the dog may associate those changes with the baby and react negatively towards them. And of course you don’t want the dog becoming territorial or aggressive towards your newborn. By making the changes in advance you’re giving time to adjust to those changes without making a negative association.
Take It Slow
When it comes time to actually introducing your baby and dog, take it slow. Ease both parties into the meeting. Even if your dog is usually very calm and friendly, I recommend erring on the side of caution. Give them time to warm up to their new buddy! Before you leave the hospital, have someone bring something home to them ahead of time. For instance, their baby blanket or hospital hat. This way, the dog can smell it and begin to become familiar with baby’s smell! It will also smell of you from all the cuddles you’re soaking in, so they’ll hopefully recognize it as safe.
When it comes to the actual meeting, I have two suggestions. First of all, if you’ve been away from home for the birth, it is probably a good idea to let your dog see you first without the baby. This allows them to get some of the excitement out before introducing them to the baby. Our little guy is pretty rambunctious, especially when he hasn’t seen us in a while. Obviously, I didn’t want him jumping and going crazy around the baby. So my parents met my husband in the backyard with the dog while I brought the baby inside. Once he’d gotten some energy out we brought him in to meet our son.
I also recommend having your pup on a leash when you first introduce everyone. This allows you to have an easy way to manage the situation. Plus a leash is a good way to get your pup to back up when they want to lick your brand new baby right on the mouth! Let your dog give baby a sniff and look them over. Gauge the dog’s reaction before giving more freedom to the situation. If they seem chill and happy, then you could take them off of the leash and let them continue exploring. If they seem unsure then you may want to keep them away from the baby for now and continue controlled introductions while they adjust.
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Give them Plenty of Attention
This can be tricky when you have a new baby but still try to give your dog some love and attention. This is partly to help them not have any negative associations with the baby. But also, a bored/unattended dog is much more likely to be destructive in the home, get into mischief or become grouchy. So when possible, include your pup on family walks, or during playtime. Have your partner support you during this postpartum period by entertaining the dog, give them extra treats and cuddles.
Our dog/baby introduction went pretty smoothly, although 6 months later I think our dog is still getting used to sharing our affection. But if you find that things don’t go as smoothly in your home, be sure to ask for some help! If your dog doesn’t get along with the baby or shows aggression, my suggestion would be to get in touch with a trainer as soon as possible. Ideally, a dog trainer that can come to your home and work with you in the dog’s environment. While working through those challenges, ask your support network for help in this area. Maybe a friend could come take the dog for a walk or have a play session in the backyard. Maybe your parents would be up for taking the dog for a weekend to give everyone (you and the dog) a break.
Hopefully, like the saying goes, your dog will be your little one’s best friend! Just remember, it’s a big adjustment for everyone to have someone new in the home. So be patient, take it slow and be sure there are plenty of snuggles to go around1