Having your first child can be one of the biggest moments in your life. It’s a total scene change, a shift in your life trajectory, a milestone like none other. It’s a truly special thing, but it’s also a great deal of work – as any mother or father who’s gone through it could tell you.
Preparation is really the key to getting through the first year as parents in one piece. That means setting things up properly so that things can flow as they should. One area you don’t want to overlook? You’ll want to be smart about how you introduce your newborn to your other child, your four-legged canine friend.
Babies and dogs don’t always get along, but setting up the proper environment can help make it an easier transition for everyone. What do you need to do to ensure that this big change is a success for you and your pup? Read on.
Teach Some Basic Commands
Before your baby comes home from the hospital to your home, you’ll want to review some basic commands with your dog. If your dog doesn’t know a few simple tricks, you’ll want to teach them to them long ahead of your baby’s arrival so that they can really get them down.
Once your baby is home, you’re not going to have the time to take on this extra task, so it is essential that you try and do it ahead of time.
The most helpful thing you can teach your dog is to go to a certain location. If you can teach your dog on command to return to their bed, for example, then you’ll have an easy way to clear space whenever you need to.
With a baby in a house and a dog running around, there’s always a chance for chaos. Having your dog be able to run to a certain, pre-arranged spot and wait for your instruction can be a huge help in diminishing some of this chaos.
You’ll want to make sure that they understand what ‘leave it’ and ‘drop it’ mean as well. Baby toys and dog toys end up being quite similar, and your canine friend can’t be blamed for picking up the former sometimes. You’ll just want to make sure they give it back so you can sanitize it sooner rather than later.
Depending on the degree to which you’ve trained your dog, they might already be familiar with these types of commands. However, it doesn’t hurt to spend some time re-iterating them and ensuring they are understood.
You’ll want them to be truly cemented before the baby arrives.
Create Positive Associations
Dogs are creatures that strongly tie various things together in their heads. They make associations with certain objects, smells, and so forth, and it can be hard to break these associations once they are cemented.
For this reason, you’ll want to do some work ahead of time getting your dog to associate baby materials with a calm and tranquil environment, as opposed to a chaotic or disruptive one.
A classic tip? Bring a few baby items home from the hospital with you ahead of the baby itself. Blankets, toys, cribs, and anything that has the baby’s scent can come ahead of the baby and provide a positive association.
Allow your dog to respectively sniff these items and then offer praise and love. You may want to do this with other items in your home that will have a strong association with the baby. In this way, you can subliminally train your dog to associate the scent of your baby with positive feelings.
The shrieking cry of a baby can also sometimes upset dogs. If you can, you can play a lower volume recording of a baby crying around the house in the weeks leading up to the baby’s arrival. This will get the dog somewhat used to the sound.
This is the same kind of training often used to help dogs get used to fireworks and other kinds of disruptive sounds.
You might not enjoy hearing the sound of crying any more than the dog, but this kind of preparation can help things run much smoother once there is an actual crying baby in the home.
The First Meeting
Sometimes parents have a fantasy about the first time that their baby and their pet will meet. They perhaps expect it to be just like a cute video you might see on the internet, wanting the two to fall into one another as instant best friends.
This is often not the case, and it’s important to keep your expectations properly aligned when it comes to the first meeting between dog and baby. Introducing your infant to your dog should be done very carefully and with the comfort of both in mind.
Remember, there’s no rush to get your baby and your dog introduced. In fact, it can often be better to keep the two separate for some time, separating one area of your home with a gate.
You’ll have other concerns about acclimating your baby to the home and you might not want to rush into worrying about the two’s relationship with one another just yet. During this time, your dog will be able to observe the baby from a distance and get accustomed to the scent.
What about when it is finally time to bring the two together? Instead of opting for the perfect first union, you should actually be aiming to set the environment for what you hope their long-term relationship to be. You don’t want your dog in the face of your infant at all times, and so this isn’t how you should try to force their first interaction, either.
A dog’s sense of smell is so strong it doesn’t need to be right up against the baby to get a sense of them. It’s best, actually, on your first meeting to just trying to have your canine lounging calmy in the same room.
It will observe the baby from afar and get used to its presence. As time goes by and the two get more and more accustomed to one another, the kind of closeness you might desire can develop more naturally.
Try to Keep Routines
It might be difficult to do, but you want your pet to feel as if your new child isn’t a disruption to their life. If it feels like their routine is massively interrupted by the introduction of the child, they might associate it with more negative feelings.
It won’t be easy to always do, but if you can give your dog the same amount of attention you did before the baby came home, it would do the relationship well.
If you think there are areas of your routine with your dog that will be difficult to maintain, try and phase out some of these routines in the months leading up to the baby’s arrival. This will give the dog some time to get adapted to the changes without feeling it’s the new child’s arrival that brought them about.
Try to keep walking and playing with your dog the same amount that they are accustomed to. The last thing you would want is for them to have a bunch of pent-up energy that they are not used to holding in.
If they are an emotional support animal, attempt to keep them in the same routine as well, even for your own comfort.
Supervise Closely & Follow Your Dog’s Lead
At the end of the day, no two dogs are exactly alike. What may work for one may not be applicable for another. While it’s good to plan and have expectations, you need to be attentive to how your dog is responding and follow its lead when it comes to proper integration.
There might be certain times, for example, when your dog seems most receptive to the presence of your infant. It could be during meals, bath time, or nap time. Keep note of when these moments are and try to capitalize on them.
Reward your pup with treats and love when they are getting along well with your infant and continue to foster an overall positive environment for both.
At the end of the day, your infant and your dog are two separate beings outside of yourself, and you need to be respectful of the time and manner in which they learn to bond.
Always remember to supervise the two when they are together and don’t leave them alone together. Even if they mean no ill-will, your dog can accidentally harm your child. Always be the mediator between them.
Introduce Your Newborn To Your Dog
If you’re bringing a baby home in the near future, there may feel like there is an endless list of things to worry about. However, one you’ll certainly want to plan for is how to introduce your newborn to your dog.
The above information can help ensure this important meeting goes smoothly. Need more advice for your newborn? Keep scrolling our blog for more.