Dogs and Babies: How to Help Your Pup Embrace Your Newborn
Bringing home a new child is a joyful, exciting experience. If you already have a furry, four-legged baby at home, though, you may face a few challenges integrating the pack of dogs and babies. The arrival of your newborn means your pooch will have a world of new sights, sounds, smells, and routines to get used to. It could be stressful for her. Creating a harmonious family dynamic will take planning, love, and understanding the change from your pup's point of view. When done with care, this early introduction could result in a life-long friendship between your human and canine little ones.
Six Months Before Baby Comes Home
Start prepping early to be sure your canine companion is ready to welcome the new addition. Around three months into your pregnancy, it's time to think about doggo's behavior and routine.
Mind Doggo's Behavior
Your furry friend's quirks might be endearing to you. You may even have gotten used to them over the years. When you're eight months pregnant, though, you don't want your 80-pound Lab jumping up to greet you at the door.
If your dog has never been enrolled in obedience training, now's the time. This will give you, your pup, and your trainer time to work out any behavioral quirks. These might include jumping, food aggression, or apprehension around strangers. Some of these behaviors could pose a danger to your infant once he starts moving around.
Early in your pregnancy is also a great time to start playing videos or audio clips of crying babies. Introduce your doggo early to what might be an alarming sound. This will help to desensitize her.
Modify Doggo's Routine
This is also a great time to begin changing up your daily routine. Your doggo is used to life going a certain way. Pups thrive on routine. When baby comes home, that hour-long morning stroll could turn into a five-minute walk around the front yard. Puppers might have some big feelings about that. Change things up now to more closely mimic how the day-to-day will go once you welcome your new bundle of joy. This will give your buddy time to adjust before things get real.
Keep in mind — the only thing certain about life with a newborn is that nothing is certain. Babies take time to establish habits and routines, and what works for your newborn one day might not work the next. To make your pup more comfortable with the unpredictability of life with a new baby, consider mixing up her schedule now. Be sure to start slowly so she's not stressed out by the changes. Introduce small changes to the times you take her out or to the duration of your walks.
Get your pup comfortable with changes in her routine now. You'll have a more well-adjusted pup in six months when it really matters.
Three Months Before Baby Comes Home
When your due date is about three months out, it's time to consider how your home will change when your family grows.
Now is also the time to let your pup know there may be areas that are off-limits, like the nursery. Place baby gates around the home to block off areas that will need to be dog-free. It's tempting to let your dog bunk with the baby, but experts recommend keeping doggo out of the nursery for the first few months. Wait until you're sure there isn't any latent or lingering fear, aggression, or territoriality. You'll be cleaning up enough dirty diapers — the last thing you need is to clean up a misguided territorial marking from your doggo.
Furniture and baby gear
New things can be scary for dogs, especially if they're big or move and make noise — like pretty much every baby thing ever. If you haven't already, set up any baby furniture, swings, gliders, or play yards so your doggo has plenty of time to grow accustomed to them. If you have a mobile that plays music or a swing that makes noise, be sure to press those buttons or flip those switches a few times a day so she can get used to the new sounds and lights. The last thing you want is to have just gotten your little one to sleep when your pup starts barking at the crib mobile. Though they seem like mundane items to us, to your pup, they can be unnerving.
Planning for delivery
If you're planning to give birth in a hospital or birthing center, you'll likely be away from home for at least a couple of days. If you have a surgical birth, you may be away for a week or more. Arrange care for your canine companion now. Enlist the help of friends or family — or book a dog sitter, or a stay at a boarding facility. Be sure to have it settled because babies don't often arrive on schedule. There's no guarantee he'll come when you have the boarding reservations. So have a backup plan like a helpful neighbor to feed and walk your pup if baby surprises you with an early arrival.
When Baby Comes Home
You've made it through delivery and those first exhausting hours, and baby is finally here. Now it's time to return to the nest and see if all your preparation has paid off. As a new parent, you'll get more precious sleep knowing puppers is less likely to disturb baby. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you bring home your bundle of joy.
Take it slow
The first introduction plays a huge role in how your doggo reacts to a new baby. It's best to take it slow. Since you've been away in a different environment, chances are you don't smell the same to your dog. Have your partner, a family member, or a friend hold the baby while you greet your pup. Let her get all her sniffing, greeting, and exploring with you out of the way before bringing the baby into the mix.
If possible, it's best to stage the introduction outside of the home. This will help minimize territoriality. Both participants — your newborn and your pupper — should be restrained. Have baby in arms and doggo on a leash. Don't give your pup any reason to overreact. Try not to act nervous or be overly excited. If she seems particularly stressed at meeting your newbie, consider giving your pooch a calming chew.
Most importantly, no matter how much you love and trust your doggo, even if she is actually a big marshmallow in dog's clothing, never leave her unattended with your baby. Dogs and babies can be an unpredictable mix. Even though you did everything right in preparation for the big moment, your pup may still be a little stressed. This may be true when the big day rolls around and probably for a while after.
Let your pup know she's loved
Give her lots of affection and reassurance — and remember it's a two-way street. You can lean on your pet partner for support and love, too. Get those doggy snuggles when you're stressed or tired. Show her she's still a vital member of your family!
If done with care, this early introduction could result in a life-long friendship between your human and canine kids.