How to introduce your dog to your baby
As soon as you find out that you’ve got a little one on the way, it’s time to start preparing your dog for the big changes in your lives.
We’ve compiled our top tips for getting your dog ready to meet their new human sibling.
Get them used to new smells and sounds
Your baby makes lots of noise and smells that may be completely new to your dog. If they have little or no experience of babies, there are things you can do to help them get used to the smells and sounds long before the little one comes home.
Find a video or sound clip of babies crying, gurgling, and screaming. At various periods throughout the day play it whilst your dog is in the room. Start at a low volume, increasing gradually as your dog becomes used to the noises. Make sure you reward calm and relaxed behaviour.
For the new smells your dog will experience, try to replicate them at home. Let them smell baby powder, soaps, baby milk and other distinctive scents regularly before your baby comes home.
Get them used to their new environment
Whilst your pooch may have previously had the run of the house, things are likely to change once your baby comes home. As soon as you can, place the new pieces of furniture that you have purchased for your baby around the house – that includes highchairs, prams, changing tables, baby gates and cots.
If you plan on restricting your dog’s access to certain parts of the house, such as the baby’s room, you’ll want to start this training as soon as possible. Have them sit and stay outside of the room and reward them for staying put. You might also want to use a baby gate for your peace of mind.
Create new routines
Your routine will change dramatically once your baby arrives, so you and your dog need to be prepared.
You still need to make your dog gets enough exercise – otherwise their behaviour at home could get worse and they could put on weight. However, the times, lengths, and types of walks they get may change, so they need to be prepared for this. Start switching up their routine a couple of months before your baby is due, so they get used to having sporadic routines. Start taking your pram out on walks before the baby arrives so you can see how your dog behaves and whether they will need additional training to walk alongside it.
If you are worried that your pooch won’t get enough exercise, you can keep track of it with a PitPat Dog Activity Monitor and adjust your routines to ensure they hit their daily goals.
Tackle separation anxiety
If your dog is used to having your full attention when you’re together, you need to help them adapt to their new life where they will have to share you with your new baby. You can help get them ready for this by encouraging them to have relaxed time to themselves even when you’re at home. Try popping some treats in a puzzle toy to keep them busy whilst you go about your normal routine and make sure they have a designated quiet area – such as their bed or crate where they get rewarded for relaxed behaviour.
When your baby has arrived, you need to make sure you carefully manage the introductions. It is incredibly important that you never leave your baby or child alone with your dog – it’s simply not worth the risk, even around the most placid pooches.
Introducing your dog and baby
When you first introduce your dog and baby, make sure you have complete control of the situation.
Step 1: Hold your baby and have someone else bring your dog into the room on a lead. Make sure you do this whilst your dog is already calm – ideally after a good walk and some food.
Step 2: Keeping your dog out of reach of the baby, reward them for calm behaviour. If they bark, strain at the lead, or exhibit any other strong reactions, take them out of the room and start again.
Step 3: Once your dog is comfortable being in the room with your baby and is behaving in a calm and relaxed way, let them a little closer to sniff the baby. Make sure you have an adult in between the baby and dog at all times – this will help you protect your baby if your dog is startled and instinctively reacts. Continue to reward good behaviour.
Step 4: Once you are happy that their behaviour is relaxed and appropriate, even when your baby is screaming, you can take them off of the lead and continue the process of rewarding good behaviour and preventing unwanted behaviour by removing them from the environment.
Note: Never force your dog to interact with your baby and train them to understand that interaction with the baby should only occur when you invite them to do so. Never leave your dog and your baby alone together.
We hope that using these tips, you can ensure that your baby and dog are able to interact safely and lovingly. Don’t forget that once your baby starts crawling you’ll have a new challenge on your hands – time to start that training now!
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