Welcoming a new baby into your family is a joyous and exciting experience! As you prepare to embark on this new chapter in your life, it is important to consider how your beloved dog will adjust to the arrival of the little one. The introduction between your dog and your baby is a crucial step in ensuring a harmonious and safe environment for both.
In this blog, we’ll explore practical steps to introduce your dog to your baby, foster a positive relationship between them, and address common concerns about dogs and newborns.
How Do Dogs React to Newborn Babies?
Dogs’ reactions to newborn babies can vary widely based on their individual temperament, previous experiences, and training. Here are some common reactions dogs might display:
Curiosity: Dogs are curious animals, and they may investigate the new addition to the family. They might sniff, nuzzle, or try to get a closer look at the baby.
Protectiveness: Many dogs develop a protective instinct towards newborns, viewing them as part of their pack. They may stand guard near the baby or become more alert and attentive when the baby is around.
Anxiety or Stress: The arrival of a newborn can be a significant change for a dog. Changes in routine, increased attention given to the baby, or unfamiliar noises and smells can cause stress or anxiety in some dogs.
Excitement: Some dogs may exhibit excited behavior when a new baby arrives, especially if they are accustomed to positive interactions and attention from their human family members.
Jealousy: Dogs that were previously the center of attention might display signs of jealousy or possessiveness towards the baby. This could manifest as attention-seeking behavior or trying to get between the baby and the parents.
Gentle and Affectionate: Many dogs naturally respond well to the presence of a baby and may display gentle and affectionate behavior around them.\
Ignoring the Baby: Some dogs might be indifferent to the baby’s presence and may continue with their usual activities, not showing much interest in the new family member.
How to Introduce Dog to Baby
Introducing your dog to your newborn requires a thoughtful approach and careful preparation. The adjustment periods are different for every animal so begin to use the baby products you intend to use early on, such as: lotion, bath soap, powder, wipes, and laundry soap so your dog can recognize that smell when the new baby arrives home.
During our interview with Steve Frost, an expert in the field of dog training from A Sound Beginning, he explains that although every dog is different, for the most part, they follow “the rule of three”. The rule of three is simply that it will take three days for both you and your dog to adjust to the new transition, three weeks to get back to a routine, and three months before you are in that routine.
Here are 8 steps to make the process smooth and successful:
Step 1: Make sure your dog is up to date with vaccinations such as the rabies virus vaccine and the DAPP vaccine. The DAPP vaccine is also referred to as the DA2PP or DHPP vaccine and protects against canine distemper, adenovirus-2 (hepatitis), parvovirus, and parainfluenza.
Step 2: Arrange the nursery well in advance and familiarize your dog with a baby gate or crate, establishing a clear boundary to prevent access to the room.
Step 3: Invite friends and family over who have babies and/or small children so your dog(s) can adjust and get accustomed to babies.
Step 4: Practice reading books aloud in the nursery and using the tones you will use with your baby so your dog can get used to it.
Step 5: After the baby is born, have the parent that has a better relationship with your dog enter your home first in order to allow the dog to greet you as they normally would and get some of their energy out.
Step 6: Put your dog on a lead or leash so when the other member of your family enters holding the baby, the dog is more manageable and easier to control.
Step 7: Hold the lead loosely enough to which the dog still feels comfortable but short enough so the dog can't reach the baby. It is recommended to start at a distance of six feet and allow the dog to get closer depending on how it acts [*]. Being attentive to your dog’s reactions is crucial at this point. When they respond positively, showing no fear or signs of aggression, feel free to reward them with praise. However, if you notice any signs of aggression or distress, it’s time to refocus their energy and attention.
Step 8: If you have more than one pet, introduce each one separately so that it's easier to manage for you and your partner as well as it creates a less overwhelming experience for the pet and baby.
Tips to Introduce Your Dog to Your Baby
Navigating the path of fostering a positive relationship between your dog and your baby can be a rewarding and heartwarming experience. These tips offer insight to help them get along seamlessly.
Avoiding punishment and encouraging positive interactions will create a loving environment where your furry companion and your little one can build a lasting bond.
Ideally, two people should be involved in the introduction: Depending on the dog’s personality, the person holding the baby can be either sitting or standing. The dog should be on a leash, in a sit/stay position, and rewarded with petting or praise. Generally, it’s better to bring the baby to the dog in a sit/stay position. This approach ensures a safer and more controlled interaction between the dog and the baby.
1. Give Your Dog Special Attention
Make sure to continue to give your dog special attention! Ensuring regular playtime, taking walks together, providing affectionate petting sessions, and dedicating quality one-on-one moments will convey to your furry friend that they are still a valued member of the family.
2. Watch for Signs of Stress
Watch for signs of stress such as: barking more, chasing their tail in a circular pattern, sulking behavior or looking depressed, licking or chewing incessantly, loss of appetite, and diarrhea. If you notice any of these behaviors after bringing your newborn baby home try upping their enrichment activities for the day with toys, treats, or mental activities. It's also important to talk to the vet and consult with them for solutions if this occurs.
3. Set Boundaries
Set boundaries with dog and baby as they grow older. Do not allow your baby to climb all over your dog or hit them with toys. Let the dog know which toys are for them, and which are for the baby. The dog may or may not be allowed into the nursery, etc.
4. Create Positive Associations
Involve your dog in baby-related activities, such as going for walks with the stroller or sitting nearby during feeding time. This helps your dog feel included and creates positive associations with the baby.
5. Redirecting Their Energy
Children will run and make more noise as they get older which might scare or cause your dog to react in a different way than before. If you notice your dog is upset, remove them from the situation for some one-on-one downtime, redirecting their energy to something more positive like training.
6. Maintain a Routine
Whether it be going for a walk at the same time every day when they get their meals, or when they get 1-1 time with you. Maintaining a consistent schedule can help alleviate any stress your dog may be feeling and foster a strong connection between you both.
7. Spending Time Away if Necessary
It's okay to send the dog on a little vacation to a trusted person if the adjustment period is rocky for your new family. If you have a trusted family member or friend that your dog has known prior to this experience, you can ask them to watch the dog for one to two weeks in order to reset the situation and make the transition go smoother. This allows the parents to adjust with less pressure or stress so that the situation doesn’t become too overwhelming.
Dogs and Newborns FAQ
How long does it take for a dog to adjust to a new baby?
Generally, it takes three days for the dog to adjust to the transition but it takes three months for the dog to finally get back into a routine and fully accept the situation.
Can dogs get jealous of a new baby?
Yes, introducing a new baby to your home can be a significant adjustment for your dog. They may feel a bit jealous of the sudden change in attention. However, with thoughtful actions, you can help your dog adapt to the new addition. Make sure to include your dog during interactions with the baby, reassuring them that they are still a cherished part of the family. By providing love and support, you can build a positive relationship between your dog and the new infant [*].
Is it OK for dogs to lick babies' faces?
No, it’s not just the presence of potentially harmful bacteria in dog saliva that can negatively affect the vulnerable immune systems of babies. Such behavior may also indicate the dog asserting dominance over the small human, possibly leading to aggression [*].
Can my dog sleep in the same room as my newborn?
Yes, your dog can sleep in the same room as your newborn baby as long as there is supervision. However, when you are putting your baby to sleep at night and are no longer in the same room with them, it’s best not to leave your dog in the same room as your baby, as this is when the most risks occur [*].
Why does my dog nudge my newborn baby?
The act of nudging blankets over the baby could be their way of keeping the child from harm. However, if your dog’s behavior becomes concerning or overly protective, it's best to consult a behavior specialist for guidance to maintain a safe and positive environment for your growing family.
Do dogs know to be careful with babies?
Yes, not only does the baby’s size impact how the dog treats the baby, but they can also sense that these babies need more care and attention. Teaching every dog to be gentle around a baby should start from the beginning. Dogs are responsive to their human’s verbal cues and body language when interacting with an infant. Therefore, by displaying a calm and protective demeanor, owners can help their dogs become sensitive and cautious around the baby.
When is the best time to introduce a baby to a dog?
For a smooth introduction of a baby to a dog, it’s best to choose a moment when the dog is calm and the baby is quiet.
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The Bottom Line
Introducing your dog to your new baby is crucial for a safe and harmonious environment. Foster a strong bond by maintaining a routine, involving your dog in baby-related activities, and being mindful of signs of stress.
Remember to seek professional help for any concerning behavior. By following these steps, you can create a positive relationship between your dog and baby for a happy family dynamic.
MiracleCord relied heavily on expert Steve Frost for this information in this article. Steve is a highly experienced professional with certifications in KPA CTP, SBA, and CPBT-KA, and boasts an impressive track record of working with more than 10,000 cases related to animal behavior. His expertise lies in skillfully assessing behavioral issues in animals, providing comprehensive training, and devising tailored plans for 1-1 training, shelter staff, and foster groups to implement. With a wealth of knowledge and hands-on experience, Frost is a valuable asset in ensuring the well-being and positive development of our furry friends offering 1-1 training in person and through zoom.
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