How to Introduce Your Dog to Your New Baby
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The arrival of a baby is a truly joyous event, but can also bring stress, worry and big changes around the house. A new child, especially if it's the first, is a challenge for the parents - and also for the family's pets.
If you have a dog, you will have guessed that they will feel agitated at finding their daily routine altered and receiving less attention, especially if they were the "only child" up to that point. Your dog will also feel confused by the strange smells and sounds of the baby. If you want the introduction to be a happy one, you should think ahead and prepare your dog for the baby's arrival so that the transition goes smoothly.
Keep reading to discover our best tips on preparing a dog for a baby's arrival. Best of luck, and congratulations!
Teach your dog new commands
Having good verbal control based on positive reinforcement can be helpful for when your baby arrives. We recommend teaching your dog the following commands and skills:
- Sit, lie, here: these are basic commands both you and your dog should be familiar with, are they are very important for everyone's safety.
- Stay: it can be especially useful in helping your dog to control their impulses. Here you can learn how to teach your dog to stay still on command.
- Drop: for your dog to let loose of your baby's objects.
- Greeting people calmly: a dog jumping on people when welcoming them home may seem funny, but once you are pregnant or have a baby it can become problematic and dangerous.
- Relaxing in its bed: your dog should have a bed or a room where they know it is safe to take refuge when there is a lot of stress at home. If you cannot watch your dog, you can send it to its bed and it can stay there, calm and relaxed.
Prepare your dog for lifestyle changes
Many dogs experience stress and anxiety when their lifestyle is drastically altered. You can get ahead of these changes and minimize your dog's stress by getting them used to these changes gradually before the baby arrives:
Plan and practice changes in your routine:
Think about how your daily schedules will change when the baby arrives and begin a slow transition to this new timetable now. If you plan on taking afternoon naps when your baby sleeps, start taking naps occasionally. If you plan on walking your dog at another time of day, gradually change to the new time weeks or even months before the baby's birth.
Life with a baby at home can be unpredictable, so it can be a good idea to accustom your dog to rhythm changes: try varying the times you feed your dog by giving it food or going for a walk one or two hours before or after their usual time at random to help them adapt. Try to maintain some stability in all these changes: a lack of control over the situation may confuse and scare your dog.
You can even practice getting up in the middle of the night as will happen when you hear your baby crying. Teaching your dog not to panic and stay calm in the area in which you will be caring for your newborn is a good idea.
Modify the attention you give your dog:
When you need to take care of your baby, the time you can devote to your dog will decrease. Here is how you can ease your dog into this change without causing them distress:
- Get your dog used to stay home alone, to receive less attention and to different family members. Otherwise, your dog will associate decreased attention with the baby and may become jealous.
- Make your pampering and playing sessions shorter and move them around in your schedule so that after the baby's arrival your dog will not notice a sudden change. Remember that adaptation is always complicated.
- Encourage other members of your family to spend time with the dog and consider hiring a dog walker to keep your pet distracted and entertained.
Establish the rules now:
If now you are letting your dog do things that won't be allowed after the baby's arrival, establish the new rules and enforce the changes now.
For example, if you sleep with your dog at night but will stop doing so after the baby comes home, get the dog used to sleep somewhere else as soon as possible. If you don't do so, the dog will associate the baby with unpleasantness and stress.
Prepare your dog for new experiences
Dogs who have not spent much time with babies can see them as strange, even scary creatures: human babies make squeaky sounds and smell, look and move differently from adults. It is a good idea to introduce your dog to new sounds and smells and get them as used to babies as possible, so that the new arrival doesn't come as a surprise.
Place the baby's furniture and toys in the house - the pram, the crib, the car seat - and present them to your dog one at a time. Place smaller objects on the floor when you are at home so that your dog can get used to the presence of toys and learn that they should not take them. Let them smell them and investigate, but if they take one, redirect their attention to their own toys.
Start using baby lotion, gels and shampoos so that your dog associates these scents with something familiar and known. Present your dog with clothing, blankets or tissues from other babies if you can so that your dog gets used to the way they smell.
If your dog is sensitive to strange noises it may become agitated or frightened when it hears the baby cry or scream. To help your dog adjust you can play baby sounds while you reward your dog with attention and treats: this way, the dog will associate baby sounds with positive experiences and love. If your dog gets scared, start at very low volumes and progressively increase it.
Some specialists in canine behavior recommend practicing with a doll that looks like a baby. For some weeks or months before the baby's arrival you can simulate baby care activities in front of your dog. Teach your dog to give soft kisses to the doll: if they try to bite it, say "no" firmly and redirect their attention to their toys.
Obviously, your dog will soon realize that the doll is an object and not a living being, but their first reaction will allow you to see what aspects you should work on when you introduce your real baby to your dog.
You can walk your dog in children's playgrounds, always carefully and asking parental permission before letting your dog approach a child. This will help your dog get used to seeing children move and run.
Now you know all about preparing your dog for a baby's arrival. If you have questions or concerns, please consult a canine ethologist and keep browsing our articles:
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