Dogs and newborns: introducing your dog to your new baby
Few things are more exciting in life than the birth of a new baby.
It’s a special time for everyone involved, but it can be stressful too – especially if you have pets.
Let’s take a look at how to prepare your dog for the arrival of your new baby, and how best to introduce them when the time comes.
We all know your dog is the centre of your universe but in a few months, they won’t be the only centre of your universe.
To get them ready, start to adjust their routine accordingly. This may involve more quiet time and less play, keeping your dog out of your bedroom or the soon-to-be baby’s room, or taking a different route when you go for a walk.
Think of as many lifestyle changes as possible that’ll occur after your baby is born, and get your dog used to them well in advance – this will minimise stress when your newborn comes home.
Act as though your baby has already arrived
In just the same way as you use firework sounds to prepare your pooch for actual fireworks, play baby-crying sounds so your dog can get used to hearing them. Start off at a low volume, and gradually increase it over a number of weeks.
Put up your baby’s cot early so your dog can get used to it before the birth. The same goes for safety gates and the pushchair.
Dogs are sensitive to smell; if you start using talcum powder and similar products early, the smells won’t be as new and mysterious to your dog when the baby comes.
Dog toys and baby toys are quite similar, and the last thing you want is your dog getting their paws on your baby’s toys or vice versa.
Establish a system for where you’ll keep both sets of toys. For example, you could keep your dog’s toys in the kitchen and dining room, while your baby’s toys stay in the bedroom and living room.
You’ll still need to play with your dog once your baby has arrived (if you find that you’re walking them less, you should play with your dog even more to keep them well-exercised and mentally stimulated). Think about restricting games like tug or fetch to one area of the house, or even better, the garden.
Your baby will have their own room or they’ll be sleeping in yours; either way, there’ll be a room for them that’s completely dog-free.
Try to grant your dog this same courtesy. Somewhere they can enjoy their treats, play with their toys and most importantly, have some alone time.
You’ll likely have lots of visitors after your baby is born, so your dog will appreciate having a ‘safe zone’ to retreat to when they’re feeling overwhelmed. This could be their crate, covered with a thick blanket, or even a calm corner of the living room (behind the sofa etc.)
It’s fair to say that during their first few months, your baby will get more attention than your pet.
To accommodate this, make sure your pet is in good health before your baby is born – the last thing you want when welcoming a newborn into the household is for your pet to catch fleas because they were unprotected!
Make an appointment with your local vet to make sure that vaccines, parasite prevention and all other treatments are up to date.
Time for the exciting part: a moment you’ll never forget, and will one day tell your children all about… introducing your pet to your new-born baby. Here’s how to keep the meeting safe and stress-free:
- Greet your dog alone first while your partner, friend or family member waits outside with the baby (it can be helpful if the mother goes in first – if she’s been in hospital for a few days, the dog will be extra-excited to see her!)
- Once your dog has calmed down, bring your newborn into the house.
- If you can, introduce them in a room where your dog doesn’t feel very territorial – i.e. somewhere well away from their food and toys.
- Stay calm, and praise your dog’s calm behaviour too. Keep them feeling included rather than pushing them away.
- Never leave your dog and your baby unsupervised.
Welcoming a new pet into a household with young children? Read more: Children and pets: introducing a pet to your children.
Need more info?
If you’re a pet owner anticipating the birth of your new baby, it’s always worth discussing your queries in person with a qualified vet or nurse.