How To Plan For Arrival and Introducing Dog to Baby
Preparing For Baby
Whether it’s your first child or you’ve experienced it all before, you may be a little nervous when preparing to bring your baby home for the first time. It can be even more stressful when you aren’t sure how to properly introduce your dog to baby.
As a parent, one of the biggest things on your to-do list is preparing for baby’s arrival. You want to be sure that everything is in it’s proper place and you have all that you need before baby comes home. Beginning those preparations months in advance can relieve some of that stress. Just incase something in your plan goes astray.
But we often forget about our furry friends and how their lives will be changing just as much as ours. Being a dog mom or dad is much different than being a parent to a human. So what steps should you take to make sure you have the best introduction possible between your dog and baby?
How To Prepare Your Dog For Baby | Using Commands Effectively
The most important commands to teach your dog when preparing for baby center around having your dog calm down and be calm without forcing or telling your dog to be calm. Teaching these now will make your life so much easier.
Having a little human around the house is already overwhelming. But when your dog doesn’t understand that calming down around baby is important, life can be even more stressful. While training, have your dog wear their leash around the house. You’ll be able to quickly correct any bad behaviors this way. Things such as jumping up on the couch uninvited or grabbing something of baby’s can be addressed right away.
“Enough” “Settle” “Easy”
Whether you have one dog or multiple, you may deal with rough play or excessive licking and barking.
Using commands such as “enough,” “settle,” or “easy” portray to your dog that what they’re doing isn’t wrong, it’s just too much of it so take it easy.
These commands allow you to take control over the situation as the adult of the home. Situations such as rough play can often heighten the chance of having an accident. Being able to stop that chance before it starts is an excellent advantage to keeping your dog well behaved. When hearing these, your dog will trust that you know when enough is enough.
If you have a dog that likes to constantly bark at unknown sounds, or tends to bark a lot from a knock on the front door, this command will be at the utmost benefit to you. Although you may be grateful that your dog is being protective of their home and family, you as the owner and adult must communicate to them when they’re going a little overboard. This will save you too from waking the baby during naptime!
“Place” means go to this object and stay on this object until I give you permission to get off. You can use any object you wish, just be sure that it’s not too big. Something your dog fits on comfortably such as a cot or a dog bed. Using a location such as a spot on an area rug would be too large.
The benefit of “place” is allowing your dog to be close to you without accidentally stepping or jumping on baby. This is especially helpful during the stages of tummy time with your newborn. As a new mom or dad, you’ll have instincts of thinking about worst case scenarios. Especially while your child learns how to do anything and everything. Having a safe space for your dog eliminates that fear of something happening involving them.
Communicating with this command also helps your dog relate to you on their own canine level. Mama dogs don’t let any other dogs come near their newborn pups for a long time. They have a natural instinct to protect their young, just like we do. Once they start to branch out and engage in playful behaviors, mama dog will know it’s okay to give them a little more space. We can have our dogs within a two foot radius come and lay down with us during tummy time to allow them to still engage with their new human, but also still be respectful of the space you have created between them.
“Leave it” and “Drop it”
The commands “leave it” and “drop it” may be pretty self-explanatory but they will be lifesavers. Especially when it comes to your baby’s pacifiers, burp cloths, and possibly even diapers too. Teaching these commands will be imperative to your sanity while your dog deals with the impact of baby’s stuff around the house.
“Leave it” communicates to your dog not to touch whatever it is they’re lurking around. You’ll be able to see it in their eyes if they’re thinking about taking whatever the item is. Regardless if it’s something on a table, the floor, or the couch. Saying “Leave it!” when you see them act this way will quickly reiterate they shouldn’t be taking the object.
“Drop it” similarly means to drop whatever object they have in their mouth. There may be a time where they take a baby toy because it looks similar to their toys. You’ll want to be sure they know this command in order to drop it from their mouth without having any opportunity of shredding or destroying it.
The “sit” command is so common and beneficial in basic training, your dog may already know it. But on the off chance this command hasn’t been one that you’ve needed in your life or your dog doesn’t always respond to it, this is a great time to set it in place and teach it.
When you instruct your dog to “sit,” it is communicating to them to sit on their butt and to stay in the sit command until you give them permission to do something else.
This is really nice if you’re holding baby and your dog wants to sit and be near you. If you go to relax with baby on the couch, you can just instruct your dog to “sit.” That way they’re off the couch which should eliminate any chance of them jumping up without permission or any risky behaviors. It will set their body in a state of calm before engaging with you.
If you’re a first time parent, this may be one of the more important commands your dog can learn. Teaching this command early on can help avoid any accidents or potential injuries. If your dog decides to jump onto the couch while baby is laying there, it could result in a traumatic event for not only them, but you as well.
Using the “sit” command and having your dog stare up at you will now become their way of asking for permission. When permission is granted, you can pat a spot near where you’re sitting and say “up.” This communicates to them, “I want you to jump up here.”
This command is also helpful if you have items, furniture, or areas that are off limits.
Settle The Dog | Creating A Lifestyle
Have you ever gotten so frustrated with your dog because they just wouldn’t settle down? Imagine dealing with a crazy dog and an infant or a toddler at the same time! As first time parents, this can be extremely stressful. If you’re a seasoned parent, you may have just learned how to deal with it. But guess what? You don’t have to!
“Settle the dog” is a great exercise that teaches your dog how to calm down on their own. Not only is this important when preparing your dog for baby, but also in your dog’s everyday life. Teaching your dog to practice settling down without physically restraining them or giving them a command is vital. This exercise gets your dog’s body and mindset into a state of calm.
Believe it or not, “settle the dog” is one of the easiest commands to teach your dog. It’s not even a command per se, but more of a way of life.
Even if you are not expecting a baby, this is a great exercise for your dog to learn. All of the dogs that come through our training center learn this. But when you are preparing your dog for baby, you’ll want to squeeze it in as much as possible before baby arrives. Whether it be two times a day or three times a day every day for five days, any time you can fit it in. This will prepare your dog to treat this less like an exercise and more like “this is how life is now.”
Using “Settle The Dog” In Everyday Life
To begin, put a six-foot comfortable leash on your dog. They will be wearing this in and around the house while training. When you go to relax on the couch to watch your TV shows or read a book, take that leash and sit on it. You’re just going to sit on the leash like nothing has changed. Be sure to give your dog enough slack that he/she can lay down at your feet comfortably. You’ll need to make sure it’s a little loose.
If your dog goes to lay down on the ground without any slack, the leash will pull their head up. On the flip side, you don’t want too much slack in the leash so that your dog is able to walk away from you and spin around and play. Their freedom needs to be a little restricted so that they get bored very quickly.
Extremely Active Dogs
Having an active breed of dog or a dog that is more mentally active just waiting for something to happen, those are the dogs that are going to need this exercise the most. By limiting their freedom and restricting them to that space, you’re going to notice that even though it may take up to an hour the first few times, they’ll eventually let out a sigh of boredom and lay down to take a nap.
Every dog is different. Unfortunately there is no definitive time frame on when they will officially calm down. But once your dog is in a settled position and visibly resting, you can slip the leash out from under you very subtly. You want to be sure you don’t drop it or yank it in a way that would startle your pup, because that will put you back to square one. But once they’re ready to get back up again, they will have free reign to walk around the house.
For more assistance and instruction on “Settle The Dog” find this full post on the subject. https://greenvilledogtraining.com/how-to-calm-puppy-dog/
Respecting Space and Boundaries | Teaching Your Dog Areas That Are Off Limits
While preparing for baby, you may have areas of the home that you want off limits to your dog and that is perfectly okay. Whatever your reasoning may be.
You are the adult and owner of the home and you make the rules when it comes to setting boundaries and allowing your pup to cross a certain threshold.
If you are putting together a nursery room, you may notice your dog may not want to come around that area. But if they still want to be near whatever it is that you’re doing, like building the crib or putting baby clothes in the closet, instruct them immediately that they are not allowed to enter that room if you want it off limits.
This doesn’t necessarily have to be the baby’s nursery, but any room of the home that you don’t want your dog venturing into. If they continue to enter the room, just simply say “no” and correct the behavior by leading them out of the room.
I’m sure you’ve seen really adorable photos of dogs or puppies laying with babies in their rocker swings or bouncers. To most, this may seem very sweet. In reality, those situations could have gone very wrong. It becomes very difficult for your dog to differentiate when they are and aren’t allowed around baby’s items. Just allowing them in for one picture could in turn create a world of problems for you. Your dog could potentially smother your baby or the situation could even be fueled to create an aggressive reaction from your dog.
We’d highly recommend getting a diaper genie or pail to keep around the areas where you will be changing baby. Something your dog absolutely cannot get into. As a mama dog cleans her puppies of any excess bodily fluids and solids, your dogs are naturally drawn to the odor and will want to investigate and take it away as though they are helping you out. In turn, that’s going to create one more mess that I promise you are not going to want to clean up amidst everything else.
Decreasing Attention Towards Your Dog | Preparing For Baby
This is going to be one of the biggest things you’ll have to do while preparing your dog for baby. Your baby is going to take up all of your time, especially as the mama. And by all of your time, I genuinely mean all of your time for quite awhile. In turn, you’ll need to cut the time you spend with your dog to about a tenth of the time you have throughout the day. Be sure that as you do this, you ease your dog into that distance from you. Don’t cut them off cold turkey.
Of course we don’t want you to completely neglect or ignore your dog. They are currently the center of your world right now, and gradually decreasing attention with them with lighten the situation when baby comes home. It will be a very rude awakening when your baby takes over all of your undivided attention that you normally gave to your dog if you don’t practice this exercise early on.
When To Start
When you find out you’re pregnant or even in the months before baby comes is going to be the best time to start decreasing attention towards your dog. Practicing that distance socially and within your space now is going to be key to making them feel like it isn’t happening all of a sudden.
We want your dog to learn that it’s okay to sleep on the other side of the floor or be in another room, that they don’t have to be near you 24/7 with baby. They can have that independence when baby comes and it’s perfectly normal. This is where teaching the “place” command comes in handy. Having your dog place on the other side of the room while you’re sitting on the couch for 15-20 minutes will ease them into that distance. If they break the command and get up to run over to you, just grab their leash and walk them back and say, “No, place,” until they get back on. You don’t have to start your time frame over again, just continue where you left off. If they get up around the 10 minute mark, just correct the behavior and continue on with the remaining 10 minutes.
Especially during those first few months postpartum as a mom, you won’t have the energy to do anything but care for your baby. Be sure to practice distancing early on. Preparing your dog for the reality that baby is going to be your world for a little while may be hard, but in the long run will be very beneficial. If dad wants to continue walking your dog every day and playing, that’s perfectly fine.
Introducing Dog To Baby | Establishing Ownership
Baby bubble space. Yes, it is a thing and your dog should definitely know it when introducing your dog to baby. And chances are instinctively they will know it.
In a pack of dogs, if a mama dog has puppies, the other dogs aren’t allowed to come near those puppies for a while. Usually until the puppies start exploring on their own and can approach the other dogs, are the other dogs then allowed to interact with those puppies. The whole mama dog ferociousness and protectiveness thing, is a thing for a reason. It’s no different from us mama parents, right? We want to protect our babies and keep them safe. Not to say your dog or dogs will do anything to harm baby, but it’s important to set those guidelines now so your dog understands that this baby is yours and not theirs.
It’s Your Baby, Not Your Dog’s Baby
One of the biggest things we deal with here at the Dog Psychology and Training Center is families telling us that their dog or dogs are very protective. But they say that because their dog won’t let them change baby’s diaper without barking or growling. That is not protection. That is your dog thinking that your baby is their property and he/she is telling you that you didn’t have permission with baby.
There’s a big blurry line between protectiveness and ownership when it comes to canines.
If you are threatening or assaulting your baby and your dogs growling at you, that’s protection. Kudos to your dog. But if you are loving on your baby or even if you’re just scolding your baby because they’re about to do something dangerous or harmful and you say, “No, don’t do that!”, your dog should never have any aggression or reactivity towards you in that moment. It’s important to set these guidelines with your dog that baby is yours, your property. You get to protect it and keep it safe as the parents and that your dog is part of your family, but it’s not your dog’s baby.
Coming Home With Baby | Dog’s First Introduction
Day one coming home with baby can be a little overwhelming, and figuring out the proper way to introduce he/she to your dog can be pretty nerve wracking.
First, let your dog sniff baby in the car seat. Not in the baby’s face but around the car seat area to where their nose is lifted and smelling into the air without being in baby’s bubble. Your dog can smell baby from across the room, so there is no need to be touching baby or for your dog to be pushing their head into baby’s face.
This is where it’s important to remember that sign of respect your dog should be showing towards you as mama dog. Some dogs may do this naturally, staying about 1 to 2 feet away while sniffing carefully around the general area of the baby, but for some of you, your dog may want be fully immersed in baby’s face which isn’t being respectful.
During introduction, your dog shouldn’t be pushing baby, sniffing on them really hard, or even touching baby to sniff him/her. You know your dog and whether or not they love kids, don’t love kids or have never been around kids, so making sure your pup only has positive interactions with your baby is very important.
If your dog is greeted by baby with he/she pulling on their fur or screaming and crying, that won’t be a very positive interaction.
Maintaining Boundaries | Teaching Baby Respect Towards Your Dog
Even early on, you’ll want to be sure to show your baby respectful behavior towards your dog. If your baby pulls on your dog’s fur, you’ll want to quickly correct them by saying, “No, no, no. Let’s be gentle.” Although they may be little, they will start to understand that pulling on your dog’s fur isn’t okay. A way to correct that would be to slip your finger into your baby’s hand and use their hand to then pet your dog calmly. This will show your baby that it’s still okay to interact with your dog, but it needs to be done in a gentle manner.
These respectful boundaries will also be expected from your dog during baby activities such as tummy time. Tummy time is where you lay your baby, stomach down, onto the carpet or a baby blanket which allows them to work on strengthening their muscles to prepare them for crawling. During this process you’ll want to be sure that your dog is not crowding baby’s space by trying to lay on or paw at them.
Remember, Dogs Are Canines
If your dog wants to lay on the corner of the mat or blanket your baby is on while still keeping that respectful spacial barrier, that is perfectly fine. You will soon find out as your baby grows that having your pup nearby becomes a great enticer for him/her to crawl towards. But if your dog is too close to your baby, things could go south very quickly.
Although they may appear to be cuddly and just trying to be involved in baby’s daily activities, dogs are still canines. The way they would correct a puppy is pretty ferocious compared to how we would correct a human baby. If your baby were to try to pull up on your dog while gripping their fur, in the canine world, it would be absolutely correct for a dog to react with a quick snap or even mouth the puppy on it’s neck to communicate, “This isn’t allowed.” But doing that to a human, especially a baby, would cause bleeding and leave marks, therefore becoming a very negative situation. This goes back to making sure that your dog understands that this baby is your baby and not their baby, and if any behavior needs to be corrected it will be done by you and not your dog.
Rewarding Good Behavior
One of the most overlooked things in a dog’s life is good behavior. We are so quick to realize and remark on those negative behaviors, but the positive ones tend to be overlooked. As you go through this time of less attention to your dog because your baby is demanding all of your time, it’s very important to make sure you are marking and rewarding every positive thing your dog is doing with and around baby so you can start showing them that’s the behavior you want to see.
Even if your dog is laying nicely at your feet when you’re feeding baby, or nicely at the end of the bed when you’re holding baby, toss them a treat. Have a treat pouch near you so you can reward that good behavior as soon as it’s happening. As we talked about previously, if they’re laying down calmly a few feet away from tummy time with baby, toss them a few treats. This makes sure that they now understand that that’s the behavior you love and want to keep seeing.
Stress Signals | Identifying Your Dog’s Body Language Around Baby
When your baby cries throughout the night, it’s probably not just waking you up but also waking your dog up. Now both you and your dog will be suffering from lack of sleep. Putting yourself in your dog’s mind, there are so many new smells, objects, and sounds in their home all at once, it’s bound to be a large stress factor for them.
Stress for both you and your dog isn’t a bad thing when it’s good stress like this. It’s what helps us grow and develop to become better people, better dogs, and just overall better throughout our life. But it’s appropriate to understand your dog is also going through stress too.
Be sure to take it easy on them and know that them being stressed doesn’t make them a bad dog, but since you are the leader of the home it’s your job to notice these signals and show your dog how to take care of them in a healthy way.
5 Signals of Stress in Your Dog | What To Look For
Your dog’s head will tell you so much about what they’re feeling but sometimes it can be one of the more difficult things to see, especially if you’re not skilled or trained to look at these things. If your dog is not facing in your direction, it can make it harder as well. If your baby is already actively crawling, you may see your dog keep turning his whole head away from the situation. He is trying to tell you, “I don’t want to be here but I’m going to a happy place in my head.”
There are a lot of stress signals that are in your dog’s eyes. If your dog is fully looking away from your baby and the whites of his eye are fully visible, that is a common signal that your dog is uncomfortable with the situation going on around him.
Tight mouth & lip licking
On some breeds this will be harder to see, but a tight mouth is also an indicator that your dog is stressed. It also comes along with tight lipped licking. As humans, we tend to purse our mouths when we are stressed, right? With dogs it’s very similar. With tight lipped licking, each lick will be very little and short so not as though they are cleaning their face, but as if feeling uncomfortable. This doesn’t indicate that they’re getting ready to bite or snap at your baby, but just that they are not comfortable with the situation.
This is something that we all have as body language, so it’s important that you understand not every yawn is a stress signal. Depending on the situation, excessive yawning is a signal if you could deem what is going on around your dog is uncomfortable. If your dog is laying down in the middle of the day with nothing going on around them and yawns, that doesn’t mean he/she is stressed.
Entire body movements
If your baby is on the floor doing tummy time and starts to scoot closer and closer towards your dog, you’ll see your dog start to shift away from baby. Your dog may also communicate stress with their entire body as well. If they start to puff up their chest or crouch away that should be a good indicator to you that they’re thinking, “I don’t know about this.”
When you notice your dog is stressed, how do you go about helping them to relieve it?
Paying attention to your dog’s reaction and body language is important, but keeping your baby or toddler from climbing or laying on your dog can eliminate building that negativity within their bond. If your dog is uncomfortable with your baby getting closer to them, they’ll usually give a very sharp look as though to say, “I see what you’re about to do and I’m not comfortable with you doing it.”
You can quickly correct any of the above stress signals or behaviors by telling your dog to simply “go lay down.” This will show them that they don’t have to stay there in that uncomfortable situation, nor do they even have to have a reaction, they can just get up and walk away.
As the adult, the leader of the family and also your baby, you can get up and remove your baby from your dog’s space but also help your dog in advocating for themselves in a healthy way.
Getting Your Dog’s Attention
Instead of allowing your mind to go through the worst case scenario of “Was my dog going to bite my baby?”, be calm and let your dog know they can redirect. When you see your dog in this uncomfortable state, that’s going to be your cue to just say, “Hey!” to get their attention and then, “go lay down,” or “come over here.” Calling them away from the situation and then taking them over to their bed to show them they can go lay down.
If you’re finding that they’re having a hard time redirecting their body language to remove themselves from the situation, this is going to be a good time to put that leash back on throughout the day to be able to show them the proper way to handle it. You can pick up their leash and say, “Come lay down,” and just walk them over to their bed, wait for them to sit or lay down on it, and then you can go back to the couch or your baby. This gives your dog the visuals and direction he needs to remove himself from those situations.
Understanding Your Dog’s Mindset
They say dogs have the average IQ of a toddler, so if you can think about a toddler that’s stressed or frustrated, they don’t usually make rational choices, right? They usually throw tantrums, they’re illogical, they fuss and cry about the most ridiculous things. Like they didn’t get their favorite spoon or the bird flew away and they didn’t get to see it longer. These are things that you can’t control but instead of getting mad and angry at your baby for those situations, we try to show our babies ways to help them defuse it.
How we treat our babies is different than how we treat our dogs in these situations, because remember, a dog is a dog and a baby is a baby, but they don’t always have enough intelligence to figure out stressful solutions. Just as you would teach your baby or toddler to handle their stressful situations, it’s your job to teach your dog how to handle stress situations.
If your dog has snapped at your baby or even growled and attempted to bite your baby, everything just previously discussed applies to you and more but be sure to immediately keep your dog away from your baby and please contact a professional trainer to make sure they can have healthy interactions going forward or it can be determined they it’s not possible. Your baby’s safety is number one.
Dogs are living creatures and they have capabilities to do some pretty serious damage. Especially to little faces. If you have done all you can do, it’s okay to love your dog and love your baby but decide to re-home your dog. Or find a different solution for your dog other than living in your home with your baby. You can still love them both and still make a choice that separates your dog from your home. So humans always come first, children always come first, but these tips and tricks are more so for those dogs that have a more positive outlook on life.
Bringing your baby home for the first time is a whirlwind of emotions. Not only are you getting used to new spaces and adjusting to your home with a new family member in it, but your furry friends will need some help adjusting too. Teaching the right commands to your dog and understanding your dog’s body language around your baby will be a great benefit in leading your family towards a long, healthy, and happy life together.
Still need help? – Post a comment
Leave a comment below if you need clarification on anything or if you have any other questions about your puppy.
Find “How To” Dog Training Videos HERE:
Greenville’s Family Dog Trainer Is Here For You
Do you still feel lost or like you need one-on-one guidance in turning your current dog into your dream dog?
CONTACT US and schedule your FREE DISCOVERY SESSION TODAY!