Introducing Baby to a Dog: The Ultimate Guide
Introducing baby to a dog should be done gradually, and with supervision. Train your dog, and teach them how to behave. Focus on leadership, and control the introduction. Very soon your dog will realize the baby is their best friend, and a playmate.
Your dog knows when you are sad, happy, or angry, and they can recognize your feelings. When pregnant, your dog will know that something is up, but they won’t know what.
If it is your first child, the whole lovely experience is new to you. But it is new to your dog too.
You might have seen a lot of videos how dogs take care of babies, and won’t go anywhere without them.
However, that wasn’t achieved magically, nor are all dogs the same. Before you have a baby, you should prepare your dog for the new member of the family.
When introducing your newborn to a dog, do it gradually. Your dog won’t know they got a lifelong friend, and playmate until you show them.
Prepare your dog for a baby
Before you have a baby, and bring them to your home, you need to prepare your dog for a new member of your family.
You might be worried about your dog being jealous, but it is the thing you should be least worried about. What you should focus on, is disciplining your dog, and setting some boundaries, because dogs can unintentionally harm your baby while playing.
Before your baby enters the home, you should prepare your dog in a few ways.
- Expose your dog to children and babies – The best way for your dog to learn how to behave when children are around, is to be around them. Call some friends with a child, and let them play with your supervision. Don’t take your dog to the park to play with kids, if they didn’t have contact with them before. There might be other dogs in the park, and your dog might start playing with them close to a child. If not familiar, they won’t be careful.
- Ignore attention-seeking behavior – When your baby arrives, you won’t have enough time to pet, and play with your dog whenever they want. Therefore, ignore that behavior in order to teach them they cannot always get the full attention.
- Cut their nails – It might happen that your dog puts a paw on your baby, or touch them accidently. To prevent scratches, cut their nails.
- Work on their excited behavior – Get help, or try training your dog not to jump when too excited.
- Set the nursery earlier – Your dog needs to get used to a new room, and learn some boundaries.
- Schedule a vet visit – Take your dog to a vet, and make sure they got all the necessary vaccines.
1. Bringing baby home
When you get home with the baby for the first time, don’t be nervous, or show insecurity.
Your dog will sense your feelings, and think they should be worried about the little bundle of joy in your arms. Be happy, and show excitement, so they can feel the same way. Although, you might feel nervous about the dog’s behavior, don’t show it.
2. Introduce the baby’s scent to your dog
Before your baby, and you get home from the hospital, you should familiarize your dog with your baby’s smell. Take a piece of cloth, or some item that has their scent, and let the dog sniff it. However, don’t let the dog come close to it until you let them.
Firstly, show them the cloth, and don’t let them come near it immediately. Your dog needs to know that what you are holding is yours. Secondly, let your dog come closer, and see what is in your arms.
Repeat this action couple of times, so your dog learns they need a permission to come to the baby. Finally, let the dog come closer, and see the cloth.
This way, you are teaching your dog to show respect, and that they can approach only when permitted.
3. Nursery boundaries
To prevent your dog from jumping to see your baby, and playing with them during night, you should set some boundaries, and teach your dog they cannot cross to the certain area without your permission.
This step is usually advised to be taken before you have a baby, but it is also a good way to introduce baby to a dog, and establish some rules.
Let your dog know they cannot enter the room without you being there, and your permission.
Stand in the room, and if your dog gets in the room, just put them in front of it. Or you can just close the door, and leave them in front of the door. After your dog gets used to not being allowed in the room, sit in the room, and leave the door opened.
Call your dog to get in, and tell them to get out after a few minutes. Then, let them sniff some things, and don’t let them stay too long. Your dog will learn that nursery is off-limits, unless you give permission.
Most importantly, introduce your dog to the nursery gradually. This will take a few weeks, but your dog will learn that room belongs to someone else, and that without supervision they aren’t allowed.
4. Let your dog sniff and see the baby
Before introducing the baby, take your dog to a park so they can drain energy, and be calm. When you enter the house, your dog will immediately notice the new smell in the house, if you have introduced them to the smell before.
Allow your dog to sniff the baby, but keep them at distance. This way, you’ll prevent some unwanted dog’s behavior, and teach them they need to be careful around the baby.
If you bring your baby close to the dog, they might jump, and accidentally scratch them. Upon their first meeting, don’t let the dog get close to the baby.
However, don’t kick them out of the room, but let them stay, and wait for the permission. If you keep your dog constantly away from the baby, they might associate the baby with feeling of being unwanted, and create negative associations to them.
5. Let your dog come closer, and control the introduction
The dog already got familiar with the baby’s scent, and the fact the baby isn’t going anywhere. If your dog respects your baby, and listens to your commands, then you can allow them to get closer.
Let them sit next to you while you are holding a baby, and if your dog shows friendly, and calm behavior, you can allow them to come close to the baby. No matter how dog is friendly, and learns how to treat your baby, never leave them alone in a room. Always supervise dog’s behavior.
6. Include your dog in baby-related activities
Before you had a baby, your dog was like a baby to you. They were your center of the universe. If you start neglecting them, they will become sad, and jealous.
Therefore, don’t exclude your dog from the daily activities, and especially baby-related ones. When you are changing the diaper, or bathing them, your dog should be next to you. Don’t let them come to close to baby immediately.
While you are taking care of the baby, talk to both of them. This way you will slowly introduce the baby, and get your dog to know their new lifelong playmate.
7. Give your dog lots of attention when near a baby
Your dog needs to have positive associations when they see your baby. Because of that, don’t yell at them when they come closer, or close the door of the room so they cannot get in.
Do the opposite.
When you are with your baby, constantly talk to your dog, and give them attention they want. Just be careful not to play with them in a way that will bring excitement in them. This may result in jumping, which can hurt the baby if the dog is sitting next to you.
As you won’t have much time to always pay attention to both baby, and a dog, then when you are walking the dog, take your baby with you. Also, when feeding the baby, you can also feed the dog.
8. Always have their favorite treats
When you give your dog a treat, they know it is a reward for doing something right. Treats have always been the best way to teach your dog a few tricks, and not to poop all over the house.
If your dog behaves well when near a baby, give them a treat. Don’t do this too often, or just without any reason, because they won’t realize why they got it.
When they do something wrong, put them away from the child. But make sure they can still see you. However, when they learn to approach the baby, without jumping, then give them a treat.
Also, when your dog is sitting calmly next to your baby for some time, pet them, and reward them. Don’t reward them after just five minutes, but let them sit for a half an hour or even more.
9. Introduce baby sounds
Before you introduce your baby to a dog, your dog needs to hear them cry. If you immediately put the dog next to a baby, and the baby starts crying, the dog will get confused, and maybe distressed.
Many dog get a grasp of what crying means after some time without even training them. However, it is good to show your dog that crying of the baby doesn’t mean danger, or signal something bad. Toss them a treat, and after some time they’ll learn that crying is time for food, or play.
This part should worry you the least, as dogs learn that crying means that baby needs something. After some time, they’ll start bringing toys to the crib, and waking you up whenever the baby starts crying.
10. Introduce baby moves – poking, grabbing, and pulling
Your baby is still too small to walk, or crawl. However, eventually they will start doing that. Toddlers love to explore the world, and they cannot know if something they are doing is wrong or not. Your toddler will start grabbing, poking, and won’t realize if the dog is irritated or not.
You cannot teach the baby at this age to treat your dog gently, but you can show them that pulling, and poking is forbidden. You can show your baby, and tell them “No” when they poke a dog, however, you cannot prevent that.
Therefore, prepare your dog for this, and poke them from time to time. Be careful not to hurt your dog, but teach them to be more tolerant.
However, if you see the baby pulling the dog’s ears constantly, and poking them, move the baby away. Don’t let them annoy your dog, and cross the line.
Be a leader
Your dog is supposed to listen to your commands, and never be aggressive. However, if they show you their dissatisfaction with something by barking at you, then you need to seek a professional help. You should be the leader of the pack, and they must know that.
Even if your dog doesn’t show signs of aggression, hire a professional help to train your dog, and prepare them for a baby. Bring your baby to a home with well-behaved dog, and only this way you can know the baby is safe around the dog.
How dog should behave
Watch for the body language of your dog, and how they are feeling. If the dog is friendly, and calm, the baby is safe. However, if they show the signs of nervousness, or look annoyed, don’t bring your baby close.
As mentioned, you can at first take your dog for a walk, so they don’t have energy to jump around the baby. But, you won’t always be able to drain their energy before in the same room.
Therefore, this is advised for the first meeting, and your dog should have been trained till that moment how to minimize excited behavior.
Related: Here’s the list of 15 dogs that love kids.
Baby’s safety comes first
If you hired professionals, and put a lot of effort in training your dog to behave well, it doesn’t mean it will work out. If they still show signs of nervousness, and aggression, unfortunately, you’ll need to find another home for your dog.
Keeping them away won’t change their behavior, nor do they learn in that way.
Your dog will quickly learn that there is a new member of the family, who needs to be taken care of. They’ll be gentle, and tolerant, however, before that moment comes, you need to introduce the baby gradually in order to be 100% sure your newborn is safe.
Later on, when your baby becomes a toddler, teach your child to treat your dog with respect and gentleness.