Congrats on your new baby! If you already have a 4-legged baby at home (your dog), it may be a stressful transition for them when you bring a new baby home.
If until now, your dog has been the “baby” of the family, they may struggle to understand why you’re not spending as much time with them when your human baby comes home. There will be an adjustment period for most dogs (as it will for you too), but we have some tips to help prepare your dog for when you bring home your newborn.
Adjust your schedules
You’ve likely been reading the baby books and know your schedules will be changing. If your pet was used to regular feeding, playtime, and walk schedules, get them used to a new schedule. Dogs generally like routines, so build up their resilience to the possibility of unpredictable or changing schedules by changing up their schedules regularly.
Take them for obedience training
If you haven’t already, ensure they have taken obedience training. When you’re busy with your baby and need the dog to leave the room, stop barking, or get off the couch, you want them to listen to keep the baby safe.
It also helps to have a dog who is good on leashed walks. If you plan to take the baby out in a stroller or baby carrier and take your dog with you, you don’t want to be fighting with a dog pulling the leash and a bulky stroller with a sleeping baby inside.
If you’re doing some basic obedience training at home, reward them with Go! Solutions kibble as a healthy reward. Positive reinforcement of new habits and behaviours will often stick better than negative reinforcement.
Set new home boundaries
Until now, your dog may have had unrestricted access to your home. You may want to set the baby’s room as off-limits while you have a newborn at home. If so, install gates or set rules early, so they have time to get used to them before the baby comes home.
Introduce sounds and scents
Dogs are driven by sounds and smells. A few months before the baby comes home, try playing baby noises and cries from the baby’s room, so the dog gets used to the new noises. Place some baby diapers around the house too, so they get used to a baby smell.
Another good tip is to have a friend or family member visit you in the hospital after the baby is born. Have them take a blanket or onesie the baby has been wearing home to let your dog smell it. Then when you bring your baby home later, the dog is already familiar with the scent.
Introduce your dog to new caregivers
Caring for a newborn can be stressful and time-consuming. In your new parent brain fog, it can be easy to forget to feed or walk your dog during those early days and months.
If you’ll be bringing in help to care for your dog (like dog sitters and dog walkers), start them working with your dog before the baby arrives. Then, when the dog walker comes to pick up your dog for a trail hike, the dog is ready and already comfortable with this new person. This gives you more time to spend with your baby.
Meeting baby for the first time
When the time comes to make that first introduction, ensure the dog is calm before introducing them to the baby. Have another family member come inside the house first and calm the pup down before the baby arrives inside.
Don’t let the dog get too close as it may startle the baby or your dog may feel threatened by this new addition to your family and try to assert his dominance over the space.
Always exercise caution when bringing your baby home to your dog. It’s hard to predict with certainty how they’ll react, but if you follow these tips, you can make introducing your dog to your new baby easier and more enjoyable for the whole family.