Dogs and Babies - How to Introduce them Gently and Safely

October 08, 2019

Bringing home a new baby is one of the most exciting times in a family. You have been waiting for so long, watching your tiny one grow for months, dreaming about her first laugh and going back and forth on baby names. But what may be an exhilarating (and exhausting) time for new parents may be an absolute nightmare for your pets. They have no idea what is going on or why the thing in the blankets is such a big deal. Your pet may even be jealous that they’re no longer the center of attention, and that can be dangerous for both dogs and babies. It does not have to be a concern, though; babies and pets can be fast friends if you follow a few simple guidelines.

Introducing Your Pet To Your New Baby

Long before your new baby makes her debut, you should start to introduce your dog to the concept of kids. Dogs and babies can live in harmony if they are both showed some basic consideration. Go slowly, allowing plenty of time for him to adapt to each changing aspect of his life. An older dog that has lived alone with you for years may need more time to adjust than a puppy.

As your due date approaches, doing some things to respect your dog’s space and routine can help stop trouble between babies and dogsbefore it starts. Things to try and include in your prenatal plans:

  1. Bring home baby supplies and allow your dog time to acclimate to the smell. Diapers, laundry soap, and baby shampoo are good to start with. Even if you plan to use unscented products for baby, your dog will still notice something new. The earlier you can start this process the easier it will be for your dogs and babies.
  2. Slowly lessen the amount of time you spend focusing exclusively on your dog. You may choose to scratch his head with one hand while watching TV (eventually the other hand will be holding a baby!) or cut down on the number of walks you take during the day. You may also choose to introduce baby items into his day- take walks with the stroller, or go for a short ride with the car seat installed next to him. Wean him off your full attention slowly. Try and solidify the condensed schedule long before the baby comes - you do not want your dog associating an immediate change in his routine with your infant.
  3. Teach your dog both an immediate recall word and a “bed” command. These will both come in handy when you have your hands full with baby! For an immediate recall, you can choose a word you do not say very often that means “come here now”. Practice it often with your dog. Teaching him to go to “bed” or something similar and having him go lay down in his crate will help ensure everyone has their own space when tensions are running high.

Once your tiny bundle of joy is born, there are a few things you can do to make the introduction easier for both puppy and baby. For instance, you can:

  1. Ask your partner to bring home a blanket that smells like both you and the baby before you leave the hospital. Allow your cat or dog to sniff it as long as he wants. It is important that you do not rush him! This is his first introduction to the little one. When he steps away, give him several small treats and plenty of attention.
  2. When you do come home, have your partner hold the baby so you can greet your pet first. This may help preclude any jealousy and reinforce his feelings of importance.
  3. Introduce your pet and your baby slowly, keeping dogs leashed at first. Allow him to smell the baby gently. Invite him to explore the baby’s things. Do not scold him for picking them up and trying to play- for so long he has had all the toys, so it may take a while for him to understand!
  4. Give your dog and your baby both plenty of attention. Never leave your baby unattended in the early days; your cats and newborns may not be well matched or your dog may respond uncharacteristically aggressively to a new cry or scream.

Keeping Pets And Babies Safe As They Grow

Babies grow and mature quickly and it can be hard for a dog to keep up. It feels like one minute they are tiny and sit still and smell like milk, the next they are walking and screaming and smell like fruit snacks and mud.

Nevertheless, with a couple of simple rules your babies and pets can live nicely together.

Never EVER allow your baby to pull, poke, or sit on your pet. Make sure she understands from an early age how to touch your pet gently and with respect. Learn your pet's body language and keep a close eye on their interactions. Remove the child immediately if your pet shows you he is done with playtime, but do not punish your pet. You want to encourage him to show you when he has had enough of the baby; if he does not, or nobody is paying attention, a quick bite may be the next warning.

Make sure your pet has a safe zone to retreat to. Your child should be taught to never play in his crate or on the cat tree, for instance. Any invasion of personal space by the baby may be met with a nip or a swipe of claws, so it is best to avoid that confrontation.

Allowing your pet time to slowly adapt to the idea of having a kid around BEFORE you have your baby is ideal. Make sure he does not feel threatened by the baby and make sure the baby learns to not hurt the dog, and everyone can survive the honeymoon period!