Introducing Dogs and Babies
Congratulations! You have a baby on the way and it’s time to think about how to introduce your dog to your new baby.
How does it feel for your dog?
Let’s talk about your dog first as this is going to be a significant change for them. They’re an established member of the family, they have their routine and they have no idea what’s about to happen. They’ll need to understand a couple of basic cues and be happy to settle and relax away from you. If they need a refresher on cues such as ‘on your bed’, ‘lie down’ and ‘sit’, you can read our guide on basic dog training commands.
Setting your dog up for a relatively stress-free transition to life with the new baby will involve being able to communicate with them in a way that they understand. Think about what you’d like them to do when the baby arrives and teach them the cues they’ll need. For example, when visitors come to meet the new baby, you might not want your dog to have a barking extravaganza when the doorbell goes, to jump up at the visitors and to be ready for 100% of the attention because that’s what usually happens. If your dog is calm when the doorbell goes, greets the visitors and has some fuss but then happily goes to their bed on cue, you’ll all have a much more enjoyable time together. Your dog won’t magically know that these new rules apply unless you have taught them the new rules.
Preparing for the baby to arrive
For such small humans, babies need a lot of kit. Your home will be filling up with lots of new items, many of which will be a lot of fun for your dog to play with. A leave it cue will come in handy along with creating a separate space for your dog’s toys.
Keeping your dog’s routine throughout the preparation stages will help them adjust to the other changes that are taking place around them. One of the things that you will need to navigate is walkies with a pram, so practising this long before the baby arrives will take the pressure off you and your dog. Being able to walk calmly alongside the pram is going to be a new concept for your dog, so it’s definitely worth practising before the baby joins you.
Just as you did when you thought about visitors arriving, think about how you would like your dog to interact with you and the baby throughout the day. Do you need a baby gate so that your dog doesn’t join you for the baby’s bath time? Do you need to be able to sit in a separate room to quietly feed your baby? Whatever you would like your daily routine to look like, you can prepare your dog before the baby arrives. Baby gates are a great way to allow your dog to still see you, get used to the new arrival and reduce the risk of them becoming anxious or frustrated by closed doors.
Introducing dogs and babies
Again, congratulations! Now that the baby is here, there’s a chance all the carefully thought out dog and baby plans have evaporated. That’s ok, because your dog understands the cues and you can ask him/her to go to their bed, to lie down or you can leave them to settle with an enrichment game.
A key aspect of introducing your dog to your baby is to teach them that calm and gentle approaches to your baby are rewarded. When you would like your dog to behave in a calm and gentle way, match your fuss and praise in a similar way; as they approach your baby calmly, quietly praise them and gently fuss them.
You will, of course, be busy with your baby’s evolving routine so have a selection of toys and long-lasting treats available to keep your dog occupied. Keep up your dog’s exercise routine, it will be positive for all of you and it will alleviate frustration and boredom for your dog. If it’s not possible to do that, recruit someone to help you by taking on walkies responsibilities until you’re ready to incorporate them into your day again.
Introducing puppies and babies
Usually, a dog is already established in the home when a baby arrives but sometimes, a puppy and a baby join the home simultaneously. The time and energy needed for one of these young creatures is immense, so to give both the time and energy they need will be a tough ask.
Puppies don’t have the same impulse control as older dogs and they won’t have learnt the cues they’ll need for you to communicate with them effectively. They’ll need to be taught these cues, along with learning where to go to the toilet, what they’re allowed to chew on and experience all elements of socialisation to set them up to succeed as they grow up.
Along with caring for your new baby, your puppy will need to have time with you every day to learn how you would like them to behave.
The golden rule with dogs and babies
Never leave dogs and babies alone together; regardless of how tolerant your dog. You might not know if your dog is in pain and therefore has a lower tolerance to the noises and smells they’re normally used to. We all have off days and for the safety of your baby and your dog, their relationship needs to develop under supervision, rewarding calm and gentle interactions on both sides.