Introducing Your Dog To Your Baby
I attended a baby shower for a friend this past weekend, and while this is Claire’s first pregnancy, she is actually preparing for her second baby. This is because her first “baby” came in the form of a four legged friend with lots of hair and slobber.
Those of you who own pets know how much they become part of your family. So, yes, it is a big deal to introduce a new member of the family to your furry friend… and it is best to be prepared.
I asked Claire how she thought her dog Bailey would handle their baby’s arrival. She said he already knows something is up. He snuggles up close to her belly – more than usual – and is very protective of Claire specifically. (Her husband, however, could be lying in a ditch somewhere, injured, and Bailey would run in the direction of Claire to lick away any tears.) A slight exaggeration, but – to my point – Claire is queen of the house.
Indeed, dogs have a way of being very in tune with their owners. Even if they don’t fully comprehend what’s happening, they have picked up that something is happening. So here are a few tips to keep in mind as you approach your due date:
Before baby arrives
-Condition your dog to the areas that will be off limits (though, perhaps, only for a time) – such as the nursery or the play room. You can do this by setting up gates to block off certain rooms.
-Invest in jogging/walking equipment. Get that jogging stroller ready – dogs and babies can be extremely compatible in the way they both benefit from daily walks.
-Expose your dog to sights, sounds and smells to come. Play videos online of a baby crying or expose (in a controlled way) your dog to children so he can get familiar with the behaviors and smells that come along with it.
-Handle any beviors of aggression, excitability or aggression now with the help of a professional.
Once baby has arrived
-Keep your routine with your dog as much as possible. Go for walks and continue to give him the leadership he is used to.
-Have your husband bring home something from the hospital that contains the scent of the baby – such as a burp cloth. This will help your dog get accustomed to your infant’s smell.
-As far as the actual “moment” when you bring your infant through the door for the first time, I love this advice from Cesar’s Way:
“Control the introduction. Start by taking your dog on a long walk. Be sure to drain all of your dog’s energy. Before returning, wait at the doorstep; make sure your dog is in a calm-submissive state before inviting her in. Upon entering, your dog will instantly know there is a new scent in the house. If you have already introduced the scent, it will be somewhat familiar. The mother or father holding the baby must be in a completely calm state. The dog should be allowed to sniff the baby, but at a respectful distance. During this first meeting, do not bring the baby too close. Eventually, the dog can be allowed to get closer and closer to the baby. By doing this, you are teaching the dog to respect the baby as another pack leader.”
As you get into your routine, be aware of times you may inadvertantly put your baby in harm’s way. For instance, when baby is not mobile yet, many parents lay their infant on the floor on a blanket. Moments like these can turn potentially dangerous if you have a larger dog that rolls on top of your child. Really, any moment where the baby is within reach needs to be monitored carefully until you know how your dog will handle your new addition.
As your baby gets older, teach her how to interact with your dog. This will be especially important once your child starts to explore her surroundings more. Interactions with between your baby and dog should be highly supervised at first. These interactions should also be used as a teaching moment – teach the baby not to pull the tail, fur, ears, etc.
If there’s a problem
If you notice excitability in your dog – either prior to baby’s arrival or after she is here- it is very important to take this seriously. Just because your dog is a certain breed doesn’t mean he will never bite. I have heard one too many stories of that assumption gone wrong.
Hire a professional if things are not going smoothly.
If your dog appears overprotective and aggressive, you will need to consider finding your dog another home. Above all, your baby’s safety is top priority.
My hope, of course, is that the comments I just stated will not be true for you. The relationship between canine and child can be a fabulous, beautiful one. Not to mention cuteness overload!