Thinking about your fur-baby meeting your actual baby can make even the most excited expectant parent anxious. For his entire life, your four-legged companion has been the center of your universe. They’ve protected and cuddled you throughout your pregnancy, and now your attention will be shifting away from them. How will you both manage?!
We sat down with a top dog trainer for foolproof tips and guidelines that will leave your pup content, and excited to bond with his new sibling.
Prep Your Pooch
Your four-legged friend may be aware there is a shift in the universe, but they have no idea what is yet to come! Prepping them pre- baby will get them accustomed to some serious changes (and sounds!).
Linda Solana, Owner of K9 Nanni in North Arlington, New Jersey, has been a dog trainer for more than 10 years, and has directly witnessed many dogs becoming big brothers and sisters. “Prepping your dog is important, as well as beginning to set boundaries.”
Linda suggests beginning with the following 3-4 months before baby arrives:
- Familiarize the pup to new sounds. A crying baby is difficult for mommy or daddy to hear, but for a dog, it’s magnified and can cause anxiety and stress if he is not used to it. “Try downloading some baby sounds (crying and cooing!) to your phone or computer and play them sporadically,” Linda suggests.
- Take your new stroller for a spin, sans baby! “Get your dog used to walking with a stroller. This is totally new territory for them and takes some practice. Make sure to hit the commands: EASY (so they learn to walk slowly), WAIT (if you need to stop and readjust baby) and SIT (if another dog or animal is in viewpoint and they are inclined to make a run for it). Have treats on hand to reinforce good behavior.”
- Train your dog to go to his own spot for the times you need a break. “Having a go-to place for when you need space is important. The dog will learn to stay there and still be comfortable. Use a simple command like ‘Go to bed!’ Take them to the place, reward with a treat and repeat multiple times during the day until they get it down pat.”
Bringing baby home will be one of your most memorable experiences. It will also be an exciting and confusing experience for your pup, who hasn’t seen you in a few days and will be ecstatic when you walk through that door.
Here are some key practices for before and after introducing your bundle to your buddy.
- Introduce your baby’s scent prior to the actual meeting. Have your partner or family member take a blanket that you’ve used with your new baby home to the dog while you are still in the hospital. Place it on the ground or in the dogs’ bed and step away. Allow them to sniff it, lick it and play with it for a bit.
- Facilitate the actual introduction. When you enter your home with the new baby, greet your pooch as usual. Likely, the baby will be in the car seat (and if not, this is a good way to do the first intro). “Let the dog sniff the baby lightly. Teach him/her to be gentle. Let them get accustomed to each other for a few minutes.”
- “Continue to set boundaries,” says Linda. “The dog needs to understand that the baby is Alpha. Don’t over reward the dog because you feel bad. Continue to have him work for his treats! But absolutely give some extra love when you can. Dogs are smart, they will catch on.”
- NEVER leave your dog unattended with your baby, even for a moment. As much as you think you know your dog, you don’t know what they can be capable of if feeling overwhelmed or threatened. Their interactions should always be supervised.
Learning to Trust
As baby grows, so will your pup. They will soon become each other’s playmates and learn from one another.
Here are a few things to remember:
- Gently get your pup used to some inevitable grasps and pinches by tugging on his ears and tail and touching his paws. During feeding time, place your hands in the food bowl and gently move some kibble around to familiarize your dog with little hands that may end up there.
- Now is the time to teach baby how to be gentle so your pup isn’t nervous when their drooly friend is near. “Teaching your child to play easily and gently with the dog is a must. Create a safe environment for both of your babies by reinforcing appropriate behavior and stepping in when necessary.”
- Respect your dog’s boundaries. Naturally baby will want whatever toy Fido is playing with. “Though it seems cute, make sure you are teaching baby that those are the dog’s toys and shouldn’t be taken away from him during playtime.”
A Baby’s Best Friend
Following these tips will set your family up for success. Though every dog and baby are different, this advice is a good starting place and is easily adaptable. If you sense any aggression from your pup, or feel that you tried things that aren’t working, look into a local trainer or vet to help you through the process. In most cases, the bond that forms between baby and pup is completely heartwarming to witness. They become each other’s companions and protectors (and free help when you need baby entertainment!).
We hope we’ve laid to rest most of your concerns and paved the way for a smooth transition into your new life with baby and dog. May the friendship continue to blossom!
About Linda Solana
Linda Solana is owner of K9 Nanni, a full-service pet center located in North Arlington, NJ. She believes pets need 3 things to be healthy and happy: exercise, discipline, and love.
Linda is a proud dog owner herself to 4 dogs and has been actively working with pet owners and dogs on basic and behavioral training.
Linda is a member of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, American Red Cross First Aid Certified, and a graduate of the New York School of Grooming.