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How To Introduce Your Dog To A Baby

The Dodo logo The Dodo 7/27/2021 Lauren Taylor

a dog wearing a green shirt

When you’re a dog parent, your pup is your baby — you buy him toys and cute clothes and shower him with all your attention. 


So when you have a new baby, your pup (like any sibling) will have to get used to sharing the spotlight — which might be a difficult transition.


To help you out, The Dodo spoke to Megan Coryat, owner and general manager of Instinct Dog Training of Hudson Valley, to find out how to safely introduce your dog to a new baby.


How to prepare your dog for a baby


Having a baby can bring a lot of changes. Just like people, dogs can sometimes be resistant to change, so to make sure your pup isn’t blindsided, you’ll want to prepare him well before you bring your baby home.


Get him used to all the new stuff


A few months before a new baby arrives, start to introduce baby items to your home, like car seats, baby toys and strollers, so your dog can get used to having these new things around the house. 


You can also start using some baby lotions and similar products around your dog, so your pup can start to get used to the new baby’s smells.


Set the rules now


Set boundaries in the house before the baby arrives. If you don’t want your dog in the baby’s room, then start making that room off-limits before the baby arrives. 


This will get your pup used to the new rules, but it will also stop him from becoming resentful of the baby, which can happen if he notices he starts getting scolded a lot more as soon as his new sibling comes home.


“A great behavior to practice and put on a cue is ‘go lay down.’ This behavior is so useful in so many situations that happen when you have a new baby,” Coryat told The Dodo. “For example, you want to walk and rock the baby to sleep without tripping on your dog. You might have more visitors than usual, and they don't want to visit with your dog, or maybe your dog doesn't like visitors. A cue to your dog to go settle in their own special, private place is really helpful.”


Give your dog a place of his own


Make sure your pup has his own space to relax so he doesn’t feel like his home has been invaded.


“You also want to make sure your dog's place is a safe haven for them. It should be comfortable, quiet and filled with the things they like, like treats, favorite toys and a water dish,” Coryat said. “Having a baby is a stressful time for everyone, including your dog, and a comfy retreat is a great way you can help your dog cope.”


Video: Sleepy Pup Only Wakes for Food (BuzzVideos)


How to get your dog used to new routines


If you think you’ll change your walking or feeding schedules when the baby arrives, start getting your pup used to those new routines ahead of time.


“Routines change fast when the baby arrives! It can be helpful to have some activities your dog can do alone, like tricky treat toys, food puzzles [and] long-lasting treat toys,” Coryat said. “Stock up on these so your dog has something to do while you are occupied.”


(Our team loves this Zippy Paws SmartyPaws Puzzler, which earned our Paw of Approval. You can get it from Amazon for 12.99.)


Babies require a lot of attention, but you can't forget about your pup’s needs, either!


“Make a plan for how your dog can still get some love, attention and exercise, either with a partner taking the lead on dog care, hiring a reliable dog walker or investing in dog daycare a couple times a week,” Coryat said.


You should also be sure to give your dog attention while the baby is around so that he doesn’t think the baby is stealing his thunder — your dog will notice if you’re only paying attention to him when the baby is asleep!


How to introduce your dog to a baby


Before you bring your baby home, you can help your dog recognize your baby’s scent by bringing home a blanket from the hospital that he can sniff.


When the baby actually arrives, have one parent greet your dog how you normally would, while the other parent stays outside with the baby.


When it comes time for a face-to-face intro, keep your dog on a leash so you can keep him easily controlled. Avoid letting your dog get right in your baby’s face at first — instead, have him sniff the baby’s feet to familiarize himself.


You know your dog best, and you’ll know if he tends to get territorial or if he’s overly attached to you and might get aggressive.


According to Coryat, the best thing to do is to ask a trainer or your vet if you have any questions or concerns. 


“A certified dog trainer can help you make a plan that's right for your family,” Coryat said.


What should you do if your dog gets aggressive?


Even the friendliest dog can get aggressive if he feels like someone is threatening his territory. Make sure you’re ready if your dog has an unexpected reaction to having a new little person in his space.


“Parents should have a plan in place to separate the dog from anything that is making them overstimulated or aggressive,” Coryat said. “Have a crate or room set up for your dog where they can stay comfortably away from the baby and visitors.”


(Our Paw of Approval testers fell in love with this super versatile and safe dog crate, which you can buy from Diggs for $245+.)


But remember — not only do you need to teach your dog to be gentle with your baby, but you need to teach your baby to be nice to your dog as well! As soon as your baby starts showing an interest in your dog, teach her not to pull his tail or ears and to pet him softly.


“New parents need to give themselves a lot of grace,” Coryat said. “The more we can normalize the messy business of becoming a parent, the better we can do for everyone in the family, including our dogs.”


So above all, relax! With the tips above, and an expert’s help if you need it, your dog and baby will be best friends in no time. 


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