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Helping Your Dog Adjust When Bringing Your Baby Home

Helping Your Dog Adjust When Bringing Your Baby Home

If you have a baby on the way, you’re probably concerned about how your dog is going to react when you bring your new baby home. Many people surrender their pets to animal shelters because of behavioral issues after a new baby’s arrival. Yet many families have been successful in introducing their dogs to the new baby by planning ahead. Here are some tips for preparing your dog for the arrival of a new baby.

Preparing your dog for the baby’s arrival in advance is one of the best ways to help avoid behavioral issues or jealousy. Your dog is used to your attention and pampering, therefore, some jealousy will naturally surface when your new baby becomes the center of attention.

Before Bringing Your Baby Home

Take your dog to the veterinarian for a complete checkup a few months before your baby is due. Your dog should get a thorough exam and be checked for worms and parasites, which can be harmful to a newborn. If your dog isn’t spayed or neutered, this is the time to get that done as well. Consult with your veterinarian about introducing your particular dog to your newborn and bring up any questions or concerns you have.

Dogs are creatures of habit; try to keep their routine as normal as possible. If you anticipate changes in your current schedule, start early by adjusting your dog to the new feeding and walking schedules that may occur after the arrival of the baby. It’s best not to make too many changes all at once.

Allow your dog to explore the baby’s sleeping and diaper changing area, as well as any other baby items you acquire ahead of time like a stroller or swing. Over time, let your dog smell everything in the baby’s room—including the baby powder, lotion, clothes, blankets and diapers. This slowly helps your dog to become familiar with the new baby and everything that comes with a new baby. Apply baby lotion or powder to your hands, for example, and allow your dog to sniff the new smell. Dogs rely on their sense of smell, so familiarity with the new baby scents will help her recognize the baby as a part of the family. If possible, allow your dog to smell clothing that your baby has worn before you bring the baby home.

Do not allow your dog to sleep on the baby’s furniture or play with the baby’s toys. Your dog should know that the furniture is not for her and should treat it as such. Provide toys for your dog that do not resemble baby toys. Your dog could take a toy from the baby’s hand and unintentionally injure your infant.

Introducing Your Dog to Your Baby

When you bring baby home, another person should hold the baby while you take a few minutes to greet your dog. Your dog has missed you and it’s important to pay attention to her when you first get home. Greet your dog happily and tell her how much you’ve missed her. You can bring your dog a special new toy as a gift to associate the baby with something positive. After your dog’s excitement about your homecoming has dissipated, you should start slowly introducing your baby to the dog.

Sit down with the baby in your arms and have someone else slowly bring your dog close to you. Your dog will pick up on your body language, so the more relaxed you are, the more relaxed she’ll be. If you are unsure how your dog will react to your baby, put a leash on her during the introduction.

Your helper can make use of any cues your dog has learned, such as, “Sit,” “Stay,” “Wait” or “Down.” Talk to your dog in a soft, cheerful voice and give her treats as a reward for her polite manners. Pet her and gently encourage her to get a good look and sniff the baby’s feet. Do not force your dog if she seems reluctant. Allow your dog to explore the new smells at her own pace. Consult with an animal behaviorist if you think the introduction isn’t going well.

Never leave your baby unsupervised with your dog. The actions of a baby may scare your dog and cause her to bite in self-defense. Also, an infant is incapable of pushing your dog away, and she could inadvertently smother the baby.

The key to a successful introduction is to associate the new baby with good things for your dog, including lots of love and attention, new toys, praise and treats. It will take some time, but your dog can get used to your newest family member so that their future interactions are positive ones.