How to Safely Introduce Your Dog to Your New Baby

children-and-dogsPreparing your dog for your incoming bundle of joy begins long before you give birth. Introducing your new baby to the existing pets in your home is much less stressful if you start to prepare early, and if done properly you can ensure your baby's safety and well-being. The sooner you begin to prepare your dog, the better chance you will have a successful and easy transition once baby arrives.

The most important rule to remember is to NEVER leave any baby or young child unattended with any pet, no matter how docile and friendly that pet may be.

The Tips below will help your whole household (including your dog) prepare for the successful introduction of your new baby into the home.

Preparing Ahead

  • Make a conscious effort to gradually decrease the amount of attention you give your dog throughout the day. Give your dog longer periods of undivided attention (such as playing fetch in the yard or going for a long walk) rather than short bursts of attention throughout the day. This will prepare your dog for the inevitable decrease in attention he will receive when baby comes.
  • Slowly start to make any schedule changes before baby actually arrives.

Desensitizing to Sounds & Smells of Babydogs-children

  • Play recordings of baby sounds at low volume, and only increase the volume when your dog is not stressed and remains calm. 
  • Use a realistic baby doll that moves and makes noise to prepare your dog for what a real baby will look and sound like. Praise and reward when your dog is polite and calm around the doll.
  • Walk past children at a safe distance, such as walking past a playground or school. If your dog reacts negatively to the sight of children, consult a professional immediately.
  • Bring home an item that your baby wore in the hospital to get your dog used to the smell of your baby.

Other Preparations Before Baby's Arrival

  • Move your dog's things, if any, out of the nursery before baby arrives.
  • Begin to teach your dog to stay off beds and furniture.
  • Continue to provide exercise and mental stimulation for your pet, even if you have to hire a dog walker or pet-sitter.
  • Hire a professional trainer to handle any form of aggressive or problematic behavior in your dog.

Understand Your Dog's Behavior

  • Growling is a warning sign that gives you a chance to address the problem. Do not punish warning signs--otherwise, your dog may go directly to overt aggression without issuing a warning next time.
  • Watch for signs your dog is stressed out, including panting, freezing, and tense body language.

children-and-dog2After Baby's Arrival

  • Bring a helper along to assist with the introductions.
  • Let the dog smell and greet all existing members of the household before bringing baby inside.
  • Multiple pets should meet the baby one at a time, and should be on leash for maximum safety.
  • If your dog displays any questionable behavior, remove the baby from the area immediately and seek help from a qualified force free trainer. Find a Victoria Stilwell Positively licensed trainer.

Related Resources:

More information about child and dog safety from Family Paws Parent Education.

More information about pets and babies from the American Humane Association.

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