It’s been nine months of prepping and planning, and finally! Your baby is almost here. While a baby is undoubtedly a beautiful time in new parents’ lives, it’s also a bit stressful—and your dog is 100 percent going to be wondering what the heck that crying, burping, squishy little thing is.
Just like a once-only child can sense a shift in the family dynamic and get the short end of the attention stick, so too can your dog. Follow these tips and tricks and you’ll be on your way to living a safe and happy life in perfect dog-baby harmony in no time.
5 simple steps to introduce your dog to your baby
Talk about a ‘meet-cute’ (Flickr/Donnie Ray Jones)
Step 1: Train your dog before the baby comes
If Fido hasn’t quite figured out how to sit on command, the ideal time to do it is before the baby is born. Basic commands such as “sit,” “lie down,” “leave it,” “drop it,” “settle down,” and “come” are great for creating an environment that’s not only soothing, but safe.
If your dog is acting up or your baby is simply uncomfortable around him, master a word that’ll give both dog and baby a break from each other. Being able to calm and control an excited dog will come in wildly helpful when there’s a newborn in the home.
If you’re having a hard time teaching manners on your own, consider signing up for a group training class. It also doesn’t hurt to practice these commands with a doll in your arms to make the practicing all the more pertinent.
Step 2: Say goodbye to the schedule
Your dog is probably used to a pretty structured schedule: Bathroom breaks at dawn, a brisk morning walk, 7am kibble, etc. But once the baby arrives, anything close to resembling a schedule will likely be thrown out the window. Start shaking things up a bit now so your dog gets used to a less predictable lifestyle before the stress of a new family member. Afternoon walks! Middle-of-the-night petting!
Same goes for any new rules. Planning on co-sleeping but currently sharing the sheets with your dog? Better to break that habit now! Putting up gates in territory that was once dog-friendly? The sooner you do it, the better.
If you want to keep on a schedule and ensure your dog is getting the same amount of attention and exercise each day, consider hiring a dog sitter for the first few weeks or months.
Step 3: Introduce the baby “stuff”
The crib and car seat will likely be assembled and ready to go far before your baby arrives. A great way to ease your dog into living with a new, tiny (weird looking!) human is using the same products as your baby—lotions, shampoos, body washes, and any creams and powders. Applying baby scents to someone familiar (mom or dad) will create a positive, safe association between dog and future baby.
If your dog is afraid of loud foreign noises such as thunder, for instance, consider turning on mechanical swings, picking up a recording of baby noises or even renting an infant simulator to get your dog accustomed to the new sounds. And to make sure your dog is extra prepared for your baby inevitably grabbing his ears, tail, face, etc., start getting him used to the idea now by doing it yourself—and then rewarding him with a treat.
Step 4: Say hello to baby
Before you bring home your bundle of joy, have a friend grab a baby blanket or burp cloth from the hospital and bring it home for your dog to inspect and familiarize himself with. Once you return home from the hospital, make sure your dog has been greeted and any pent up energy and excitement has been released before leashing him and introducing him to your baby. If your dog remembers “settle down” and sits calmly next to you, reward him for his good behavior with a treat!
Step 5: Have fun!
Remember, this is an amazing and exciting time in your life, and dogs are great at picking up on and mirroring emotions. Even though hectic, stressful moments will undoubtedly hit you, try to be aware of your energy and create a positive soothing environment. Ease into together time to get everyone accustomed to the new member of the household, pay your dog lots of attention during naps and down time, and soon life with one baby—your dog baby!—will feel like a distant memory and your dog baby and human baby will be cozying up like it’s second nature.
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional veterinary help.