How to Introduce Your Dog to a New Baby

The arrival of a new baby is a challenging time not just for you, but also for your dogs. You’ve spent months dealing with doctor’s appointments, birthing classes, and setting up a space for the baby. Bringing the baby home is the start of a new life for you – but what about your dogs? They don’t know what’s coming, and the new addition can be a shock. How do we ensure that our dog will accept the new addition to the household?

Of course, we had to go to experts with a wealth of knowledge about life and dogs. When we asked a dog breeders association in Australia called RPBA for their insights about introducing a dog to a new baby, they emphasised that preparation and a consistent routine are best, along with constant supervision of any interaction between them. With that in mind, we’re going to give you the core tenets to build a wonderful relationship between your dog and new baby.

Prepare the Dog

There’s a lot involved in preparing yourself for the new baby, but we also need to spend a little bit of time preparing our dog as well. At the very least, we need to make sure that the dog has a rock-solid understanding of basic commands:

  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Drop it/leave it
  • Go to/move to
  • Away

Not only does the dog need to be able to follow these commands, they also need to be able to do them under stress – the commands need to be “proofed” in various situations. This can be done by training the dog outdoors with distractions.

You can even try to recreate the various situations in your home that the dog is likely to encounter, such as you having to feed the baby or change a diaper. You’ll have to get the dog to follow commands while your attention is focused on the task at hand – changing a baby’s diaper without looking at it is something only the most experienced parents can do!

Make Gradual Changes

Our dogs are remarkably sensitive creatures, and they can pick up on any changes in the household. The addition of a new baby is a very big change, so we want to minimise any other change that can happen at the same time. That’s why it’s a good idea to start early when making changes to the dog’s routine and the arrangement of the house.

If you already know months in advance which room is going to be the nursery, stop letting the dog in there unsupervised, if at all. Any baby equipment such as cribs and strollers can be brought in as early as possible so that the dog stops being fearful of it.

Not only that, we should try to build a positive relationship between the dog and these changes. Reward the dog for staying out of the nursery or for stopping at the door. Reward the dog for sitting quietly near any of the baby’s things. This will help cement the idea in the dog’s mind that any interaction between them and the baby will be rewarding if they stay calm and patient.

Don’t Force It

When the day does come that you bring the new baby home, we want to avoid the dog feeling like it’s trapped. We also want to ensure that you are the one in control of the interaction and not the dog.

Of course, your dog will likely have missed you for however long you were gone. For some parents, this may be as short as a day or two; for others, it may have taken as long as a week. They’re going to want to greet you and give you some love. Take some time to say hello to your dog without the baby so that they get any excess excitement out of their system and are calm and ready to meet the baby later on.

It can actually be better to not let the dog see or meet the baby for a couple of days. This way, the dog will get more used to the sounds and smells involved with the baby, and it gives you a chance to set up a neutral, open space for their first meeting.

Their first interaction should be initiated by you, not the dog. The dog has to be invited into the baby’s space – this lets the dog know that being near the baby is something you have to allow before it happens. Only invite the dog to approach once it’s calm and ready. There should also be a clear path between the meeting area and the dog’s safe space so that the dog can retreat and calm down if they begin to feel overwhelmed. If you do opt to let them meet immediately, you should still follow the same rules.

The dog needs to learn that they only get to enter the same space as the baby when they’re calm and quiet. Gradually, you can begin to let the dog get to know the baby so long as they’re able to maintain this kind of energy.

Establish a Routine

Once the dog and new baby have met, it’s time to get the dog used to life with a new baby. There are going to be new smells and sounds, not just from the new baby, but from you as well. Having a baby changes our routine drastically, so your dog is going to have to adapt to the new routine. If you’ve done the prepwork we mentioned earlier, this should be much easier.

The only real challenge here is giving as much attention to your dog as you did before the new baby arrived. New parents may simply not have the same amount of energy to spare for a couple of months. That’s okay – just try to have the same number of walks and play sessions as before, but shorter. The routine simply has to be applied consistently so that the dog can adapt to it. It may be good to hire a dog walker so that the dog can release all their pent up energy while you get some rest.

Fuss Over the Dog Too!

While the new baby is likely to be receiving plenty of attention from the new parents, family and well-wishers, don’t forget to make a big fuss of your dog too.

If your dog previously received treats for good behaviour while exhibiting good behaviour out walking or around the house make sure that you keep those going as well as the usual praise that it would be accustomed to receiving.

While you will no doubt take plenty of photos of a new baby, make sure you don’t forget to take plenty of dog photos too. After all, they’re both family!

Many people take photos of a new baby along with their family dog as it’s one of those photos that children love looking back as they get older.

Supervision is a Must

No matter how well your dog takes to the new baby, you must have control over the situation. Every interaction has to be supervised, even if your dog shows that they absolutely adore the new baby. Dogs are curious by nature, and rarely have an understanding of how strong they are. Even a loving dog can accidentally scratch or bump their loved ones when they get overly excited and want to play.

What’s important is that you ensure the dog is gentle and respectful with the baby. If you can do that, you’re in a good place. We believe that if you follow all of these tips, your dog and new baby will eventually form an unbreakable bond that will last a lifetime.