How to Introduce Your Dog to a Baby
When you're expecting, there are so many special moments: seeing the positive pregnancy test, hearing the baby's heartbeat, seeing them on ultrasound, feeling those little kicks, planning the nursery, and looking forward to their arrival. But if your 'firstborn' happens to be a furry four-legged doggo, you're also excited for them to be promoted to big brother or big sister. However, your dog needs a little help from you to prepare for your new pint-sized family member.
To help keep the peace and maintain safety for everyone, it's essential to take it slow and have patience. We asked a few veterinarians for tips on introducing dogs and babies to make it a smooth transition once you bring your bundle of joy home to join the fam.
Preparing Your Dog for a New Baby
While you're dreaming of sweet baby cuddles and finally seeing their face in person, your dog will be overwhelmed by their two most dominant senses: scent and sound. A new baby introduces new sounds, smells, and changes into a household routine, which can cause stress for dogs, according to Michelle Lugones, DVM, a veterinarian at Best Friends Animal Society.
"By taking the time to prepare pets for any change at home, you can help minimize behavioral problems and promote a healthy, safe relationship between pets and a new baby," she continues "Start preparation well in advance so you aren't rushed and have ample time to address any challenges that may come up. Because once your baby arrives, you will likely not have a lot of time to manage unforeseen issues."
Get your dog used to babies and children.
Months before your due date, it's time to start setting up some baby and toddler playdates for your dog to get used to being around tiny humans. As Lugones recommends, if you have friends or family with babies or small children, invite them over to see how your dog reacts to and interacts with the children in a supervised environment.
"Your dog should always be leashed and securely distanced from the children until you're sure that they can interact safely. Never leave pets and babies together unsupervised," she continues. "If you find that your dog seems very stressed, frightened, nervous, or that they might approach a child in an unsafe manner, you should consult with a veterinary behaviorist to address these concerns."
Brush up on your dog training.
If it's been a while since your dog went through basic training, (or ahem, if they never went) it's worthwhile to brush up on their education. You should ensure they understand cues such as sit, down, stay, leave it, drop it, go to bed/place, and so on, recommends Jenna Olsen, DVM, a veterinary advisor for Pawp. Also, you should practice short times of separation—either from behind a baby gate or in a crate—since they will no longer have your undivided attention. Olsen says that once your doggo is responding to their cues consistently, up the ante!". "Try practicing them while sitting in a chair or walking around while cradling something in your arms!"
Get your dog used to baby sounds and scents.
As Lugones explains, dogs have an incredible sense of smell, so it can be super beneficial to give them a 'sneak-sniff' into what their new brother or sister will smell like. "Start using the baby shampoos, conditioners, soaps, powders, and laundry detergent on yourself and your family that you'll be using on your baby," she says. "Your dog will get accustomed to the scents, so when your baby arrives, they'll already have a scent that's familiar to your dog, which will be one less thing they have to get used to."
Introducing Your Dog and Baby to Each Other
Now that you're newest member of the family has arrived, congratulations! And welcome to human parenthood. Your dog gave you a crash course in caring for another living thing, and now it's time to introduce them to their new best friend. Here's how to do it safely:
Let the dog smell a baby item first.
The day before or the morning of your arrival, have someone else visit your home with an item of your baby's clothing. This could be dad, grandma, or even a trusted friend. Allow them to greet your dog, then let them smell the blanket, onesie, or hat. During this time, they should be curious but not aggressive, Olsen says.
Greet your dog as you normally would.
After giving birth or watching your partner give birth, you will likely be overwhelmed, exhausted, and well, excited to be back home. No matter how tired you may be, it's important to greet your dog with the same love and affection they're used to, Lugones says. Let someone else hold the baby, and bend down to pet your pup and talk to them as if nothing has changed.
Keep your dog leashed, and take it slow.
When your pup is calm from your homecoming, leash them, and place them six feet away from the baby. Then, you should sit down and allow your pup to view the baby. "If they react with curiosity and no fear or aggression, reward them with lots of praise. If they have been fine with other babies before, you can slowly let your dog get closer, but be cautious," Lugones says.
Once your dog and baby have had a chance to "get to know" each other a little better, with consistency, patience, and supervision, they'll be pals in no time.