If you own a dog and are about to bring home your baby, you might have many questions like, ‘How to Introduce A Dog to a Baby‘, ‘How will my dog handle this? ‘Will he/she be jealous?’, ‘is there a chance that s/he might bite my baby?’
In this guide, we tell you How to Introduce A Dog to a Baby, assess potential problems on the horizon, and also provide insights into easing your dog through the transition to a life with a new baby at home.
Table of Contents – Step By Step Guide: How to Introduce A Dog to a Baby
- How to Introduce A Dog to a Baby – Before The Baby’s Arrival
- How to Introduce A Dog to a Baby – Once The Baby Arrives
- Conclusion – How to Introduce A Dog to a Baby
How to Introduce A Dog to a Baby – Before The Baby’s Arrival
Your dog will benefit from the training it receives before your baby’s arrival.
About 4-6 months before your baby arrives, begin manners training and socialising your dog. Consider signing up for some basic canine obedience classes. Alternatively, you could have a personal dog trainer come home to teach your dog basic obedience commands like Sit, Stay, Heel, Down, etc. Practise these commands daily under different circumstances.
About 4 months before the baby arrives, have your dog get used to the different sights, sounds, and smells s/he is likely to encounter once the baby arrives. Unwrap rattles, toy cars, balls, and other toys your baby will use. Let your dog sniff these. If it picks up these toys, distract it by giving it a tasty, dog-safe chew or a dog toy.
You can also “simulate” a baby by holding a baby doll and rocking it, feeding it, and carrying it around your dog. If your dog jumps on you when you are holding the doll, give the “down” command and reward it immediately with a high-value dog training treat.
Teaching Verbal Skills and Basic Manners
- Stay/Sit commands – your dog needs to learn to sit and stay. Teach it to wait at doors and settle down.
- Leave and drop commands – these are extremely important to teach your dog so it can leave your baby’s things alone.
- No jumping – jumping behaviour can be especially dangerous if a large dog jumps on a person carrying the baby. Teach your dog to greet people politely.
- Paws on the ground and off the furniture/baby’s crib – establish these rules early on. Make sure all the family members are on board with these rules.
- Barking on cue – the last thing you want is your dog disturbing the baby with its barking. Train your dog in the speak/bark-on-cue command to discourage it from sounding the alarm all the time.
- Crate training – train your dog to settle down and self-soothe in a crate. This will also help your dog relax in its cosy, safe place when things get hectic with the baby.
- Sleeping in another room – if you plan to have your dog sleep in another room, now is the time to start training it.
How to Introduce A Dog to a Baby – 2 Months Before The Baby Arrives
About 2-3 months before your baby arrives, anticipate any changes to your dog’s routine and schedule. If you plan to hire a dog walker or pet sitter, this is a good time to get your dog used to this new person.
Start making small changes in your dog’s routine based on the changes you anticipate. These include:
- Walking your dog at a different time of the day than it normally does.
- If your baby stays up all night, it could delay your pet’s breakfast. So try to get your pet used to varying feeding schedules. Alternatively, you could invest in automatic feeders if you plan on sticking to the same feeding schedule.
- Start taking your pet to a doggy daycare where it can meet and play with other dogs. It is important to investigate different convenient options before your baby comes. Start with one or two sessions weekly and then increase the duration based on how often you plan to take your pet to the daycare. This is a great way to have your dog expend energy since a tired dog is a calmer dog.
Many pet owners make the mistake of showering their dog with too much attention in the weeks leading up to the baby’s arrival. This is setting yourself up for failure. Minimise the attention you give your dog so it will get used to being ignored once the baby does arrive. Avoid showering attention on your dog at a particular time of the day. This way, it does not get used to that and starts anticipating it.
Decide if The Baby’s Room Will be Off Limits for The Dog
If you decide to have your baby’s room off-limits for the dog, teach it to stay by the door. If you decide to allow your pet in the baby’s room, place a dog bed (out of the way) in the corner of the room.
Babies inevitably pull the dog’s tail, fur, bite, etc. Prepare your dog for rough handling by grabbing, poking, pulling, and pushing it. Reward it each time so it expects “good things” after being handled roughly. This will help your fur-baby get used to potentially uncomfortable interactions with the baby.
How to Introduce A Dog to a Baby – Once The Baby Arrives
- If you have other people coming home with you, send them indoors first and let your dog greet them with excitement. This will help it expend some energy.
- Have a family member leash your dog before going in. This is important if you feel that your dog could have a negative reaction to the baby.
- If you have reactive dog, ensure they are crated when you arrive home with your newborn baby.
- Stay calm and relaxed when you enter the house. Your dog is sensitive and can pick up on your mood.
- Speak to your dog in a calm voice.
- Have a family member feed your dog plenty of treats so its attention is diverted from the baby.
- You can also give it commands like sit, stay, etc. Praise good behaviour right away.
- You can sit in a quiet room with the baby and have your family member bring in your dog on a leash.
- Keep your body language and posture relaxed.
- Speak cheerfully and soothingly to your dog.
- Allow it to sniff at the baby’s feet. You can treat and praise it while it sniffs.
- Keep the first interaction short.
- Distract your pet with a tasty treat or a puzzle.
- Once your baby has settled in, avoid giving attention to your dog when the baby is asleep.
- Instead, give your dog attention and praise it when the baby is awake and each time your dog interacts calmly with the baby.
- With the appropriate training collar and if your dog has been trained in loose leash walking, take your baby along in a stroller when you go for walks with your dog. This will help your dog get used to the new “pack member”.
- Ignore your dog when the baby is not around. This way, your pet starts anticipating the baby since “good things” happen when it is around.
- When you feed the baby, give your dog some interactive toys, new dog chews, or something interesting.
- As far as possible, reward your dog every time it interacts calmly and in a controlled manner with your baby.
Conclusion – How to Introduce A Dog to a Baby
When you first bring your baby home, your dog is likely to feel overwhelmed by a variety of new stimuli, including sights, smells, and sounds. You can make the transition a lot less stressful for it by teaching it the skills it needs to interact with the baby.
We hope this brief guide on How to Introduce A Dog to a Baby helps you and your dog adjust to the new experiences and changes ahead.