I’m so excited today to have an awesome guest post from Audrey at Mommy Enlightened. Audrey is an amazing blogger who helps parents adjust to life with little ones! Check out her blog for some great advice on pregnancy, postpartum and parenting in general.
Audrey spent years and years working at an emergency vet clinic and has a LOT of experience with animals. She currently has 3 dogs and 3 cats… oh and 2 little girls too!
Audrey and I chatted about what she could write about and I jumped at the chance for her to do an article about introducing your new baby to your dog!
I’m an animal lover too and I’ve had to deal with my fair share of doggy problems… like dogs running away, solving dog diarrhea issues! So I know our furry friends can be challenging, but I also know they are WORTH IT!
I got my first dog when my eldest son was 8 months old. Strider (aka… the best dog in the world!) was 6 months old when we adopted him and he adjusted well to having my son crawling and pull on him. Seriously… my son would crawl right over the top of Strider sleeping on the floor!
But Strider did find it puzzling when we had our 2nd baby! He settled down pretty quickly and we didn’t have any issues after that (even when we had our 3rd baby).
I know that not everyone gets as lucky though. I can’t count the number of times that I have heard of families giving away their dog because they have a new baby – but it doesn’t have to be that way! I’ll let Audrey tell you more…
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Introducing Your Dog to Your New Baby
Introducing your dog to your new baby can be one of the most nerve-wracking introductions you ever make for this newest member of your family. For many of us, our dogs are our first babies, and we love them as much as (if not more than!) the human counterparts in our families.
Not only is your life changing drastically in bringing home a baby, but so is theirs. You need to think through your strategy and figure out how you can make it as smooth a transition as possible.
I have three dogs. I spent many years working in an emergency veterinary clinic, and I accumulated a lot of soft and cuddly lost souls to bring home with me.
When I was pregnant with my first, I was apprehensive about how my youngest dog, Denna, would do with the transition. She’s a snotty Cocker Spaniel who we treat like a princess, and I love her to death. It broke my heart to think that she would no longer be the baby of the family, and would likely become less of a priority for us.
I wanted to make sure this adjustment would be as easy as possible for my little fur babies, so I spent countless hours doing research on the topic. I wanted to share with you some of the wise advice I received that actually worked for my family.
Keep in mind, it’s going to be an adjustment, and there will be bumps along the way. You can’t avoid that, but you can make it easier for your whole family.
If you haven’t already gone through training with your dog, this is the time to do it. It will be important for your dog to be able to listen to you even with distraction and stress.
Take your dog to public places and practice giving commands such as sit or lay down. Keep in mind that even the most well-trained dog is going to struggle following commands when the new baby first arrives, but this will help that adjustment happen more quickly and effectively.
Consider kennel training your dog if they aren’t already. You can give your dog a treat when entering the kennel during the training period in order to create a positive association with this space.
Put some comfy blankets into the kennel for them to lay on, and keep this kennel a kid-free zone. This way you are providing a safe space for your dog, and you will be able to have a place to tell them to go away from the baby without having to yell at them.
We all thrive on routine–including our pets. Your routine after-baby will be completely different than what your puppy is used to, so try and get them adjusted as much as you can before bringing your baby home.
Put some thought into how your dog’s eating, sleeping, or exercise schedule may change. If you plan on taking your dog on fewer walks, start decreasing the frequency of walks pre-baby.
Remember, it’s okay to spend a little less time with your pet when you have a new baby. Eventually, things will normalize. Just don’t load your pet up on affection the weeks leading up to a new baby, only to take it all but away once the baby arrives.
Get Your Pet Used To Baby Objects
My three dogs all have very different personalities. My Shetland Sheepdog, Fenrir, is a rescue. Like most rescues, he has a few personality quirks.
By personality quirks, I mean Fenrir is scared of everything and pees himself frequently. Once I started bringing baby items in our house, he freaked out. He would run away with his tail between his legs and a stream of pee behind him whenever he encountered a new baby item, particularly if it squeaked or bounced. It can be tough because he’s not a food motivated dog, and so we have struggled with creating positive associations for him.
We started bringing baby stuff into our house when I was four months pregnant, so he had plenty of time to adjust. To aide with this, we fed him in the same room as the crib and the stroller and made sure we were intentional with our placement of baby items.
We had various smaller pieces of baby furniture that we would rotate through different rooms every week or so. It took him a good month or two to start being okay with our additions, but he did eventually get there.
Even if your dog is not the nervous type, you still want to acclimate them to the baby furniture. They will likely be curious, and most pet owners know how quickly discomfort can give way to bad behavior.
You don’t want dog slobber or chew marks all over your new baby swing. Monitor your dog the first few times you expose them to new baby stuff so they can grow more accustomed to it.
Many dogs are frightened of strollers. Who can blame them? They are sort of like mini cars, and they transport tiny screaming humans. Take your dog on a few walks pre-baby with an empty stroller to get them used to it.
Also, be sure not to leave them alone to roam around tempting items like binkies or bottle nipples or anything else that might be a chewing hazard or a choking risk.
Some pet owners aren’t aware that they have a food-aggressive pet. Many times it only becomes apparent when a young child gets bitten while trying to put their hand in the dog bowl from which the dog is currently eating.
Your dog should be comfortable with anyone going in and handling their food during chow time. Otherwise, you risk your baby getting hurt once they become more mobile.
Sophia Yin was an excellent veterinarian and animal behaviorist who left us a lot of resources regarding pet behavior issues. You can check out more information about dealing with food aggression here.
Even if you teach your child to be gentle with your dog, it’s likely that at some point your dog will get poked and prodded in a way that makes them uncomfortable. Create positive associations for your pup by giving mildly irritating pokes or pulling the puppy’s fur while delivering a treat in an upbeat tone.
It will be essential to teach your child about respect for the dog, but that doesn’t mean that your child won’t ever poke or pull on your dog. Babies are notorious for pinching, and unfortunately, you can’t teach a baby not to pinch.
Bringing Your Baby Home
So you did training classes with your dog, they love their kennel, and they get excited when they see the stroller because it’s time for a walk.
Make sure you have a plan for the big day. Introductions are essential, and although you don’t need to worry about first impressions scarring your dog’s opinion of your baby, you definitely want to make it as stress-free as possible.
There are plenty of ways to do the first introduction. The most important concept for this first interaction between baby and doggy is to take it slow.
You can choose to have this first interaction right away or wait a couple of days. You can’t really hide a baby, so it’s usually a better idea to do the introduction as soon as you think your dog can handle it.
The First Meeting
During that first meeting, it would be ideal for you or your partner to wait outside with the baby. Whoever is going to greet your dog can go inside and greet them the way they usually do. Optimally, this is through hugs, kisses, treats, and bright tones.
Avoid acting nervous or agitated, because your dog will pick up on that. Your dog will already know that something is different unless you frequently leave home for days at a time and come back smelling like amniotic fluid and breastmilk.
Have you or your partner sit down with the baby in a quiet room and let your dog in on a short leash. Continue to talk in positive, soothing tones to your dog.
If the pup is curious, you can let them sniff your baby. Don’t worry, the sniffing doesn’t need to happen for very long, but it will help your dog become accustomed to the new permanent house guest more quickly.
Afterward, give them treats and love so they can develop a positive association with your baby.
All Dogs Are Different
Keep in mind; all dogs will be different. The situation above is an ideal circumstance, and most people’s situations are not perfect.
My Sheltie wanted nothing to do with the baby. The Cocker Spaniel was utterly oblivious and would have trampled the baby if we would have been less cautious.
We handled each dog differently and they all adjusted in their own time.
Once you pass the initial introduction hump, it is only a matter of time until your dog adjusts. Dogs are adaptable creatures, and the majority of dogs will do just fine.
There are a few simple things you should keep in mind as a dog owner and parent.
Do Not Leave Your Baby On The Floor
Although this may seem like a no-brainer to most, we often trust our canine babies and expect more foresight than is probably fair to expect from them. It isn’t a far reach to expect or feel that your dog is careful and would never step on a baby lying on the floor.
While it may be true that your dog would not do this intentionally, you need to keep in mind that your dog has the mentality and the ego of a small child. Accidents happen, and leaving your baby on the floor with a dog in the house is very risky.
Do Not Leave Your Baby Alone With The Dog
Even the sweetest dogs can lash out because of fear. No dog’s behavior is entirely predictable, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Not leaving your dog and child alone becomes even more critical as your child becomes more mobile. A toddling child can be terrifying to a dog, especially if said toddling child is shrieking and falling all over the place.
Teach Your Child Respect
It makes me really sad when I see videos of babies and toddlers pulling on, riding, or poking dogs to the raucous laughter of the filmographer and friends. This is not respectful to your dog, and they are likely frightened because they don’t understand what’s going on.
It’s also extremely dangerous because, again, your dog has a child-like mentality and they cannot be trusted not to lash out if they feel desperate and scared. Keep in mind, some dogs have jaws meant to crack bone.
Initially, it’s a little scary to figure out how you and your furry friends will navigate the landscape of a new baby. You will find your rhythm, and the same is true for your dog.
Remember that one of the most important things is to go slow. Watch your dog’s body language and respond accordingly.
Get your dog used to minor annoyances of pokes and pinches and pulls under controlled circumstances, because it’s better to be prepared and safe just in case.
Teach your child how to respect the dog. Your dog is an innocent creature who deserves the same respect that you or I do.
Teach your child how to be gentle and loving, because the lessons they learn at a young age will resonate with them for a long time.
Don’t worry; you got this.
Hang in there mom.