Your Dog and New Baby:
Preparing Fido for a New Family Member
Worried about how your dog and new baby are going to get along?
Looking for tips on preparing your family dog for baby's arrival?
Then you're in good company because every day, other dog owners are facing the same 'dog and new baby' questions.. but you're going to be ahead of the game because the answers and advice you need are all right here!
Your Dog and New Baby - GET READY....
Don't wait until you're on your way home from the hospital to wonder how your pooch is going to take to this new arrival!
Preparation is very important and can make the whole introduction process (and the days/weeks ahead) much less stressful for everyone. So plan ahead.
There are lots of things you can do to help minimize the impact of the inevitable changes in routine and homelife that your dog is going to have to deal with. Gradually preparing him to have less of your attention and time, to become accustomed to the sounds and smells of a newborn baby, and to overcome any behavioral problems that he has such as jumping or nipping BEFORE the baby comes will definitely help everything run more smoothly when the big day arrives.
Adding a new baby to your family is a BIG deal, and if you already have children, you may be expecting to have to deal with a little bit of jealousy or sibling rivalry. But you may not have considered the fact that your dog may also have an emotional reaction to this new arrival.
If he's your 'first baby', then he will be used to spending lots of time with you - and he won't be used to sharing - yet.
Getting any health issues resolved in plenty of time is also worth the effort. It's going to be time-consuming enough taking care of a newborn baby without having to schedule in routine veterinary or grooming appointments during those hectic first weeks.
Your Dog and New Baby - GET SET....
Let's start off with the simple and practical things you can do to prepare your pup or dog for the addition of a new sibling.
One thing that's important to mention at this point is that the sooner you start to get your dog ready for your new baby, the better. Some of these things :
- Get routine vaccinations taken care of and also make sure your pup has been treated for worms. This is something that should be done within the month prior to your baby's arrival.
- Have him bathed and his hair trimmed (if necessary) and also make sure his nails have been cut. Try to get this taken care of as close to the birth as possible, so that you don't have to worry about it for a while.
- If he's been crate trained but hasn't used it too much of late, get him re-acquainted with the crate. When the baby comes and it's a bit crazy at home, it will be easier on both you and your dog if he has a safe, comfy 'den' to retreat to where he's out from underfoot! If he's not familiar with being crated, introduce him to it several months ahead of the birth so that he has plenty of time to accept it and adjust.
- Invest in a couple of baby-gates, or if your dog is a small breed, a puppy exercise pen or playpen. You can use these in conjunction with the crate to keep your dog IN certain rooms (such as the kitchen or family room) or OUT of certain rooms such as the nursery. Buy these and get them set up as soon as you can so that your dog has plenty of time to get used to the new set up.
- If it's mom that usually takes care of the dog, it's a good idea to start sharing those responsibilities as soon as you find out you're pregnant. Dad or older children can get involved in feeding, grooming, training and exercising your dog. This isn't only beneficial for mom and the new baby, but for your dog and other family members as well. Dogs naturally respect those who control the resources and necessities of life, so if all the family is reponsible for these, your dog will bond more closely with, and be more respectful of them too.
- Some dogs manage to grow out of puppyhood without losing puppy behaviors such as jumping or nipping. This should never happen, as proper training early on will put a stop to it, however in reality sometimes it does! If your dog fits this description, NOW is the time to get to work on those unwanted behaviors. It's also a good idea to enroll your dog in a basic obedience class that will help you to not only deal with any problems, but to understand and communicate better with him - which will be invaluable later on after the baby comes. If you find there are issues that you can't handle yourself, don't hesitate to ask a professional dog trainer or dog behavioral specialist for help, sooner rather than later.
- Dogs can be very wary of new furniture, appliances or anything else that suddenly appears in their environment. Letting him see (and sniff) the new crib, stroller, baby-swing, car seat etc. will help him feel comfortable with them before they contain a crying infant! If possible leave one or two items in your living room and let him get used to them for a week or so before putting them away, then replace them with another couple of items. Of course if you have a puppy in your home, don't leave him unattended with expensive equipment - puppies are indiscriminate about what they chew!
- If your dog has never seen or heard a baby before (or his experiences have been few and far between), now's the time to change that up a bit. Try inviting friends or relatives with babies to visit, and let him slowly get familiar with the sounds and smells of a baby. You can also make a CD recording of a baby crying/gurgling/laughing/squealing and play it in the background daily. That way the unusual noises your newborn will make won't get him upset or anxious.
Your Dog and New Baby - GO....
The big day has finally happened, and at last you're at home with your precious new bundle of joy. How should you introduce the dog and new baby to each other? How much togetherness is enough and how much is too much?
You probably still have a bunch of questions, so let's take a look at the 'home stretch' and give you a few more tips to get over this last hurdle.
- Dogs have a highly developed sense of smell, so getting him used to the smell of your new baby is the first step. Both the ASPCA and Cesar Millan suggest having your partner take home a baby blanket, baby onesie (or something else that has been close to the newborn) from the hospital at least a day before you return home. Let your dog sniff it and put it somewhere that he can access it such as on the back of the sofa.
- If possible make sure your pet has had a nice long walk before you arrive home. That way he'll have used up some of his boundless energy and be calmer and less likely to get over-excited.
- As mom to 6 children of my own (all raised in a multi-dog household!) I have plenty of experience of introducing a new baby to both human and canine siblings. In our family, we would always have a small gift 'from the baby' for the older children. It gave them something special to enjoy at a time when everyone seemed focused on the newborn, and started the relationship off on the right foot. I found it was a good idea to give the dog(s) a nice new chew toy at the same time... of course they didn't care who it was from but it was a nice distraction and kept them busy too!
- When you come home, your dog is going to be sooo happy to see you that he's going to be very excited. To prevent the baby from being jostled or scared, and to let you greet your dog with open, loving arms, let someone else carry the baby into the house.
- Then once your dog has settled down a bit, sit on the sofa or in an armchair with the baby on your lap and allow your dog to sniff him/her and look at her. Be calm, patient, and loving and give him a tasty treat or two to make the whole 'meeting the baby' thing more fun for him. If you're anxious or nervous, your dog will feel that but won't understand that you're nervous because of him. He's more likely to assume that this tiny new creature is the source of your concern and therefore a threat or problem, and that will make him anxious too. So be calm, keep your voice low and be loving and gentle - always!
- It's okay to be firm with your dog too though, as long as it's done lovingly. Don't allow him to jump up, paw at the baby, or be pushy. A gentle sniffing and some looking is enough for now.
- To make this dog and new baby experience a pleasant one for your pet, keep treats in handy spots around the house and when he is near the baby and being gentle, quiet, and loving, give him one or two treats. If you do this regularly he'll learn that having a baby in the house is not such a bad thing!
- One very important point to make here is that it is vitally important to ALWAYS SUPERVISE ANY INTERACTION BETWEEN THE DOG AND NEW BABY. This is really just common sense and applies to dogs of all sizes/breeds and to older babies, toddlers and young children too. If you have a large breed pup or dog, he could easily knock down or hurt a baby or small child in play and quite by accident. Plus dogs of all sizes can get scared or anxious if they're in an unfamiliar situation without you around, and could accidentally (or occasionally intentionally) hurt a baby/child by jumping up, nipping and so on.
- Don't forget to maintain your dog's normal routine and activities as much as is humanly possible. Having a new baby is hugely time-consuming, but dogs thrive on routine and are comforted by predictability. Sticking to 'the same old, same old' will help your dog to stay relaxed and calm - which is what you need.
- Don't suddenly reduce the amount of time you spend with your dog, or the amount of love and attention YOU give him. Although (hopefully) he has already become accustomed to being taken care of by all family members, he still needs to feel loved and special by everyone!
Hopefully these dog training tips and advice will help the relationship between your dog and new baby get off to a flying start. There's nothing quite like the love between a child and their dog and it's a bond that I strongly feel that every child and every dog should have the joy of sharing.
With some preparation, planning, patience and persistence you can make sure your kids (both the two-legged or four-legged variety) are lucky enough to enjoy. Good luck.
Our guest author, Sue Koranki, is the experienced mom behind the scenes at www.The-Puppy-Dog-Place.com. For more tips, advice, and information on training your puppy or dog, please visit her site.
Other Articles That May Be of Interest
7 Steps to Prepare a Toddler for a New Baby
Newborn Baby Budget
Childhood Immunizations - What Every First-Time Parent Must Know
Return from Your Dog and New Baby