Introducing your Dog to a new Baby

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Bringing home a new baby is an exciting time that brings about a great deal of change to the family dynamic. This shift can be confusing or traumatic for a dog who thrives on routine and doesn’t understand when or why the changes are taking place. The good news is that we can indeed prepare our canine companions for the new addition – this is best done gradually and from a few weeks before birth so that the dog has time to adjust to the new rules and routine.  The following is based on some of the steps I followed when my son was born: In the month before your baby is born:

  • Now is the time to gradually introduce changes to your dog’s daily routine – these are the things that are likely to change when your baby arrives. For example – your dog may no longer be able to sleep in the room with you or he may need to get used to spending more time alone or outdoors.
  • Get your dog used to the baby smell by sprinkling baby powder in various places around the house as well as your dog’s resting place – you could also rub some into his coat.
  • Behavioural problem such as jumping up or unnecessary barking must be dealt with and resolved before the baby arrives. These issues may be manageable to you now but can be a safety issue or cause sleep disruption once the baby is here.

One week before the baby is due

  • Encourage your dog to come into the baby’s room with you and see the changes to the space.
  • Keep the nursery door closed or install a baby gate and reinforce firm boundaries so that your dog understands he may not enter the room without being called

Before coming home from the hospital

  • Introduce your dog to the baby’s scent by allowing him to smell a blanket that your baby has been using at the hospital.
  • Spend some time allowing your dog to explore the new scent and make it a fun time by offering a treat or playing a game.
  • Leave the blanket at your dogs resting place or around the house so he can get used to it.

Bringing the baby home

  • On arrival greet your dog calmly and quietly – acknowledge him and give him some attention.
  • Take the baby into the nursery and once settled allow your dog to while you hold the baby
  • Keep the meeting brief and then take the dog outside for some attention – a game, a treat, or a belly rub.
  • If you dog appears interested or anxious when the baby cries, divert his attention by offering a game or a treat. Avoid rewarding your dog with a treat or attention at this time as it will only re-inforce the anxiety.
  • Help your dog to adjust to the new “pack member” by allowing him to see, hear and smell the baby as much as possible. This will

The Days Ahead

  • Allow your dog supervised access to the baby – stay relaxed and always hold the baby in your arms, allow the dog to smell your baby’s feet.
  • Reward good and calm behaviour for example if he stays relaxed when the baby is crying. 

Always put your baby’s safety first – never leave your dog and baby alone unsupervised and if you have any concerns seek advice from a qualified behavioural therapist.

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