If you’re expecting a baby, your dog will need some time to adjust. If he has never been around a baby or small children before, then his first encounter with them might be an unpleasant surprise. If the thought of that makes you cringe, here are some tips that will help ease the transition.
From preparing for the delivery day to the first few days home, here is what you’ll need to know about introducing your dog to a new baby.
Before the Baby Arrives: Preparing Your Dog for a New Family Member
Bringing a new child into an existing pet household can be very difficult on everyone involved. The best way to avoid problems with jealousy and territoriality is to start preparing your dog well before the arrival of your baby.
Begin by changing your dog’s association with the room where you’ll be giving birth. If possible, work with a trainer to teach him to love spending time in this area so he feels comfortable there when he can’t be out roaming free. Clean it thoroughly and make sure all of your dog’s favorite toys and belongings are moved out.
Work on training him to love spending time in this area with tasty rewards, like small bits of chicken or cheese. This will condition him to start associating this room with good things that happen while he is there.
If you breastfeed the baby and plan to continue doing so, then it’s important to plan for how you will accommodate your dog before the baby is born.
If he knows how to sit and stay on command, ask your spouse or a friend who doesn’t have children yet to use him as a practice prop while you are breastfeeding. It’s best if they give him small treats for obeying and then take them away as a firm correction if he doesn’t respond.
If you can see that your dog is already showing signs of stress when you’re around, such as panting with the tongue out, avoid nursing in front of him or asking someone to keep him company while you feed the baby. It’s best to wait until he’s calmer to try training sessions.
Once the baby is born, communicate with your spouse or caretaker about managing and caring for the dog so that you don’t have to worry about him while you’re nursing or caring for your child.
As soon as your dog starts to get jealous and shows signs of aggression, such as growling when you’re nursing the baby, it’s time to separate. If your dog is already getting anxious when you go into the baby’s room or starts showing signs of aggression when you request a sit or a down stay in the baby’s room, begin training sessions with him for short periods before you leave and long after you return.
If you have a dog crate, use it while you are home to keep the baby and your dog separate. This way your dog will learn that he can relax when you’re in another room or outside with him. When the baby is awake, keep him on his leash so that you can quickly correct any unacceptable behavior before it escalates.
If you don’t have a crate, use the baby’s room as the dog’s “room” and put his leash and favorite toys in there so he has at least two comfortable places to retreat for some peace.back to menu ↑
While You’re Home: Caring for Your Dog While You Care for Your Baby
Once your baby is born, you’ll need to get your dog used to stay home alone during the day.
Prepare him for this ahead of time by taking him on short stays (about 5 minutes) in his “room” while you’re at home preparing lunch or dinner, so he gets used to being separated from you.
Once your baby comes home, keep your dog on his leash whenever the two of you are in the same room. This way if he behaves inappropriately around the baby, you can easily correct him by saying “no” or giving a firm tug on his leash.
If he’s not behaving well around the baby and needs to be corrected often, it’s best to keep him on his leash during waking hours. Having your dog stay in another room, even if you’re home, isn’t the answer because it’s not fair to him or your baby.
You can either use the baby’s room as one of the places where he has free time so that he doesn’t feel separation anxiety when you are in there, or you can put him on a leash and have your spouse or caretaker play with him while you’re caring for the baby.
Use training treats to keep his attention focused on what you are asking for before he gets rewarded with them. You may also want to give him water, but don’t feed him any food during the day.
If you want to walk him before putting the baby to bed at night, put your dog on his leash and then put it away or use an exercise pen to keep him contained in a safe area while he learns that he can’t follow you everywhere. Staying outside with him is also a great way to tire him out for his nighttime nap.
At night, if your baby cries a lot and you have to go into the room frequently during the first few months, it’s best to keep your dog on his leash near your bedside so that he doesn’t feel as anxious as you rush out of the bedroom. Your dog should respect you as pack leader from now on because you are caring for his new baby pack member, often at the expense of your time with him.
Some dogs will whine or cry if they feel anxious, others go out of their way to create problems like stealing things or getting into danger by chewing on inappropriate items like electrical cords. Both types of behavior can result in injury to your dog and baby, so you need to be prepared.
At Least 16 Weeks Before the Baby Comes Home: Preparing Your Dog for a New Baby
As soon as your baby is born, your dog must realize that he no longer has your undivided attention. This means that you have to actively teach him how to behave appropriately when the baby is around. Of course, you can’t expect your dog to never have accidents or do things he has been doing for a long time now.
But by teaching him how to be a good family pet with clear rules and boundaries, you’ll avoid most future problems, particularly those related to separation anxiety.
You can start by having someone come to your home and practice with you on how to handle the dog around a baby. Be sure those people understand that they need to be firm and consistent about what is okay, and eliminate anything related to aggression or separation anxiety.