Bringing a new baby into the household is a huge adjustment, and the sooner you prepare for your dog’s adjustment, the better. If you do things right, your baby and your dog enjoy a safe, lifelong friendship.
Some dogs accept a new baby into their pack without fuss, but you can never predict how any dog will respond. Don’t hesitate to schedule a one-time consultation with a professional dog trainer who can give you step-by-step support.
Introducing a dog to your baby begins long before the baby arrives.
Your routine is going to change, and it’s impossible to predict before your baby’s already home. However, there are some things to consider. First, any rules that are going to change should start months before your baby arrives so the dog understands the new expectations and doesn’t “blame it” on the baby.
The more you can think ahead about the dog’s rules/restrictions and schedule changes, the smoother things will go when you bring home your new arrival.
Your dog may love other babies and children, but that doesn't mean they’ll love yours right off the bat. Those others don’t live with you, take up your attention 24/7, and have minimal impact on your dog’s life. Sometimes, the sweetest and gentlest of dogs become a bit fierce at first in their initial jealousy and adjustment, and dogs that never seemed to like other children become the perfect nanny to their new member of the pack.
The best way to ensure a smooth transition, regardless of your dog’s current disposition, is to plan and prepare.
Now, more than ever, you should attune yourself to your dog’s language, the majority of which is expressed through slight (or not so slight) body movement and position. The more you understand what your dog is communicating via body language, the better you can gauge how to move forward with baby introductions and baby/dog contact.
Speaking of language, now’s the time to train your dog to respect commands the first time around. If you haven’t done so already, train your dog to understand and follow the basics so you can calmly use them as needed when the new addition arrives.
Basic dog commands include:
Group dog training classes, doggy boot camps, or one-on-one private dog training sessions can help you achieve this goal more quickly.
If your dog is already crate trained, that’s fantastic. You’re well on your way to a smooth path ahead since the dog can happily chew on their favorite toy or Kong when you’re occupied and can’t monitor dog-baby interactions. However, if your dog isn’t crate trained, it’s never too late to start.
When done properly, crate training offers dogs their own “den,” where they feel safe and can interpret the world around them via smell, sounds, and sights without over-stimulation. But, of course, it also keeps them out of the chaos, especially if you have Baby visitors and helpers. Click Here to read more about how to crate train your puppy or adult dog.
As with #1, the sooner your dog is familiar with all of the new equipment and changes in the house set up, the less he has to adjust to when the baby comes home. This is especially crucial if changes mean a change in your dog’s current bed, play, or feeding areas.
It’s never too early to practice if you plan to walk the dog with your baby in a stroller. With the right commands and expectations, your pooch will happily fall in stride once the stroller includes its passenger. This will make your first several walks smoother and stress-free, as you will have already worked out most of the potential obstacles (and leash tangles).
You may find that you simply don’t have time to walk or exercise your beloved dog the way he’s used to despite your best intentions. A dog with too much energy puts your home furnishings and baby at risk. Have a plan in place in case the first few weeks or months don’t allow for the walking or dog park time your canine requires.
Hire experienced professional dog walkers, take advantage of local doggie daycare, build a DIY agility course in your backyard and teach neighbor kids how to guide your dog through it, or invest in some high-quality interactive dog toys and chews to keep your dog busy until you can honor their need for exercise and energy release.
When it comes to introducing a dog to a baby, you should adhere to many of the tenets we outline in, How to Approach a Dog You Don’t Know. Dogs have about 100 times the number of olfactory receptors humans do. Your dog will know there’s a baby whether she sees the baby or not because she’ll smell it on you, on your partner, or from the next room over. Your dog will approach when she feels curious, safe, and comfortable doing so.
If your dog is avoidant, that’s okay. Respect that and remain calm. It’s not uncommon for wary dogs to remain separate and avoidant of the baby’s space for weeks or even a month or so. Over time, and with your calm and respectful energy, she’ll learn how to treat the baby by watching you and will approach when she’s ready.
If you’ve put the training treats away from the puppy days, now’s the time to have a bag on hand again. Using small treats and lots of positive reinforcement for correct behaviors encourages your dog to accept the baby with far more ease than if the dog associates a new baby with being the cause of negative scolding, reprimands, or punishment. Nervous dogs need to understand that whenever the baby is around good treats appear.
Are you concerned about the transition from dog baby to your human baby? Would you like support ensuring both your dog and your baby can find their way into friendship within the pack? Contact us at Alternative Canine Training. (734) 462-2810. We’ve helped hundreds of dogs form loyal and lasting bonds with their baby human companions.