A new baby is a big life transition for all, including your pets. It’s best to start preparing your dog for the arrival of a baby early on. The sooner you start making modifications to reflect what life will be like with an infant, the better adjusted your dog will be. From introducing your dog to new baby items to planning the first time they meet, we’ve detailed how you can prepare your dog for a new addition to the family.
Work on Training & Commands
Before the baby arrives your dog should respond to commands telling them to sit, leave items, stay, not jump, stop barking, and listen when told no. You don’t want your dog running to grab or play with any baby items that fall on the floor! For dogs that are clingy, also known as “velcro-dogs”, you’ll want to train your dog not to be glued to your side. With your pup being less attached to you wherever you go, you won’t have to worry about tripping over them while carrying an infant or baby supplies.
If your dog is not already crate trained, you’ll want to do crate training. Crate training is valuable as it makes leaving the house easier, creates a safe place for your dog, and is good for emergencies when urgent crating is necessary. Preparing for a baby is a busy time, so if time and energy are limited you can always enroll your dog in obedience training classes.
Begin New Schedule
Understand that a new baby is also a big transition for your dog. Your pup will be getting less attention and their daily schedule will change along with your own. After the baby arrives, you probably won’t be able to walk your dog around the time they are used to. You can make this switch now so that any changes to walking your dog will be a normal routine by the time you bring your infant home.
Along with schedule changes, if you don’t have an automatic feeder, a new baby may switch up routine mealtime for your dog as well. It’s good to practice feeding your dog at different times to get them used to changes in their meal schedule. For example, giving your dog dinner around 5:30 pm instead of the usual 5 pm. Any rules your dog will have after the baby is born should be enforced as soon as possible. For instance, if your bedroom will be off-limits you should make that change now.
Prepare for Attention Changes
If your dog was your only “baby” prior to the welcoming of a new child, it may be hard for your pup to adjust to less attention. However, you can prepare your dog for this change ahead of time. To do this you’ll need to practice giving your dog less attention throughout the day. It may be difficult to do this at first but remember that it’ll be even harder if there’s a drastic drop in attention when the baby is brought home.
Once the baby is born, if you only pay attention to your dog when your baby isn’t in the room, you may unintentionally reinforce negative behavior. Your dog will begin to recognize that your baby is the reason for the decrease in attention and can become jealous. Thankfully, this problem can be easily avoided and solved. When you and your baby are in the same room as your dog, give them attention too. This attention can take various forms such as talking, light playing, and/or petting your dog.
Introduce Baby Items
As soon as you start buying and receiving large baby items, such as baby gates, strollers, car seat carriers, and baby swings, you can begin exposing your dog to these new, exciting items. Setting up the baby’s equipment and nursery ahead of time will give your dog time to become familiar with the items’ new scents, appearances, and sounds. Pushing the stroller around, turning the baby swing on, carrying the baby car carrier, and setting out the baby’s playmat are all things you can do to prepare your dog. Likewise, wearing a bit of baby soap or other products the baby will smell like can help your dog grow familiar with the new scents.
A big part of having a new baby is regular, constant crying. Help get your dog accustomed to these new sounds by playing videos of baby noises and crying. You can give your dog treats during this desensitization to reward their calm behavior. By giving your dog treats, they will begin to associate the sound of a baby crying as something positive and not stress-inducing. Just make sure the video volume isn’t too loud where it’ll create stress and fear in your dog!
If you are able, it’s highly recommended to have your dog spend time around children and infants before the baby arrives. Spending time at a park or with family members and friends who have kids (with permission) will help your dog become better adjusted to being around children. You can even take your dog for walks alongside a stroller to practice walking your pup with a baby.
Bringing the Baby Home
Before taking your baby home for the first time, take a blanket or piece of clothing the infant has worn or been wrapped in for your dog to sniff. This helps your dog become accustomed to the new baby’s smell. This can be done before you leave the hospital and should take place before introducing your dog to your baby.
When it’s time to head home, it’s helpful to have someone who can enter the house before you, leash your dog, and hold the leash while you enter. Every time the dog calmly interacts with the baby, give your dog a treat to reward their behavior. Additionally, for the first couple of days with your new baby, it can be helpful to keep your dog on a leash indoors.
Meeting the Baby
When introducing the family’s new addition to your dog, express that this is a joyous thing and not something your pup should feel anxious or stressed about. Continue to reward and praise your dog each time they calmly and gently interact with the baby. Giving your dog plenty of treats when they spend time around the baby will help them associate the infant with good things. If you are tense during your pet and baby’s first meeting, your dog will pick up on your apprehension.
Babies’ immune systems are not very strong so you should keep your dog from licking your baby’s face. Dogs may do this out of excitement, anxiety, or to assert dominance. Your pup’s mouth is full of various germs and bacteria that can cause sickness in your infant. In addition to reducing the risk of illness and bacteria, your dog licking your baby’s face can lead to biting if the dog feels it needs to assert dominance. With proper training, you’ll be able to teach your dog that licking the baby should not be done.
Overall, preparing for a baby requires time, energy, and work. If you find yourself overwhelmed or want to keep yourself from reaching that point, there’s no shame in getting help. You can ask friends and family if they can petsit or take your dog for walks after the baby comes. There are also plenty of resources that exist for finding pet sitters, doggy daycare, dog walkers, dog training classes, errand runners, and other task helpers at Rover, Wag!, and Care.com. You’re all experiencing this new adventure together so make sure to include your four-legged companion(s) in your preparations!
For more resources on going through life with a dog by your side, check out our blog.