How to Introduce Your Dog to Your New Baby
Congratulations on your baby! If you're a little worried about your dog's behavior around your new baby, know that you're not alone. It's natural to have a little concern. Maybe you're worried that your dog may be slightly obsessed with or anxious around your newborn. There's a lot you can do to smooth the transition. Help make sure your dog's on his best behavior with your baby by introducing baby smells and sounds early, playing with your dog a lot after the baby comes, and introducing the two slowly.
Prepare Your Dog for the New Sounds and Smells
Remember, just because you understand what's happening doesn't mean your dog does. Without the right introduction, your dog may be a little anxious around the baby. Babies make all sorts of unfamiliar sounds. They even smell different! But you can do things to help prepare your pup for all those changes.1
For example, you can play a recording of baby sounds around the house long before your baby arrives. This will help your pup not to feel so surprised by the unexpected noises.
You can also put things that smell like a baby around the house. This way, your dog's not experiencing a bunch of new smells when you bring your baby home. This can include baby powder and baby lotion. If you can get a baby blanket from the hospital where you'll give birth, that would be perfect.
Once your baby arrives, your dog will need a "safe space" away from everything for when she gets anxious. That could be a crate with a comfy pad or a dog bed that's in a laundry room or another place where the baby won't be and where it's quiet.
Give Your Dog Lots of Attention to Avoid Jealousy
Your dog might feel a little jealous of the baby if he's used to having all your attention. To help with this, try having one of the parents enter the house first—without the baby—when you first come home. Give your dog lots of attention and some play time before you bring your baby inside.
But more importantly, try not to neglect your dog once your baby is home. Continue traditions your pup loves, like going on walks, car rides, or playing with his favorite ball or chew toy in the back yard.
Start Training Early
Start training early so your dog will obey basic commands if she starts to seem obsessed with your newborn baby.2 Your dog should quickly respond to commands like "sit," "stay," and "down."
Then teach your dog to go to a favorite dog bed or crate on command, with a phrase like "go to bed" or "relax." Make it a happy location where she gets a treat and has a chew toy, but then sits or lies down until you give her the okay to leave.
You'll also want to teach commands like "come" and "drop it." Now is also the time to teach your dog to stop jumping when greeting people. You don't want her to jump on you when you're holding the baby. If you need to go to obedience classes, that's okay too. Your dog will probably love the adventure.
You may also want to practice going through baby routines before the baby comes home, so your dog doesn't associate the change with the baby. This can include early morning "feeding times" for the baby and walking an empty stroller. You can even practice with a doll and teach your dog not to bite the baby doll. The goal is to start adding in any changes to your dog's routine early, so he's already used to the changes and knows what to do.
Introduce Them Slowly
When you bring your baby home, keep them separated at first so your dog can get used to the smells. You might set up a dog crate or gate so your dog can still be near you and the baby, but be a safe distance away.3 Then introduce them gradually, while your dog is on a leash, and give your pup frequent pets. Slowly increase the time and then transition to off-leash time.
Don't force your pup to interact with the baby if he's not ready. Invite him to sniff the baby, but it's okay if he doesn't want to come. Introductions should be slow and as peaceful as possible.
You can do a lot to help your dog be on his best behavior with a new baby. It takes a little planning ahead, but it's well worth your time.
- Canfield, Christie. "Helpful Hints When Introducing Babies and Dogs." AKC, 27 January 2017, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/how-to-introduce-babies-and-dogs/.
- ASPCA. "Dogs and Babies." ASPCA.org, https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/dogs-and-babies.
- Gormly, Kellie B. "What Not to Do with Dogs and Babies." PetMD, https://www.petmd.com/dog/what-not-do-dogs-and-babies.