My husband and I are dog people – always have been, always will be. He had a dog before we got married, and fun fact about me: pregnancy makes me start perusing the animal shelters for a new dog. Call it a nurturing instinct, call it poor judgement, whatever. But we brought a new dog home during each of my pregnancies. So, I have spent time figuring out the best ways to introduce a dog to a baby.
I’ll never forget the night we brought our first son home. Our two dogs came bounding down the stairs to see us, only to turn right around and bolt back upstairs the minute he wailed. It makes sense, really. A baby looks human but sounds and smells like something…other than human. Even the most well-behaved dogs can be stressed by this sudden change in family dynamics.
Here are some helpful hints that we’ve used to introduce a dog to a baby and make this transition easier.
Play it safe
- When you arrive home with your newborn, greet your dog alone first. This prevents him from jumping on your baby and gives him a greeting that he’s accustomed to.
- Allow your dog to get used to the sounds and smells of your new baby before introducing them up close. Our dogs had NO interest in our newborn at first, but once they grew accustomed to his shrill voice, they were more curious to figure out who this new person was. Some experts even suggest placing an article of your newborn’s clothing wherever your dog sleeps!
- Allow your dog to get closer to your baby gradually. It’s best to begin on a leash, and gradually increase contact. A portable bassinet can help. This convenient bassinet allows your dog to be close enough to smell your baby, but with an added barrier for baby’s safety.
Keep a routine
- Give your dog plenty of attention when the baby is around! Similarly, keep your dog’s routine as best as you can. If he is used to going for a walk in the morning, keep that up as much as possible. The fresh air is good for the baby, too! You want your dog to associate positive things with your baby’s presence.
- As your baby grows, teach boundaries as they relate to your dog. Babies old enough to crawl often yank a dog’s tail, poke their eyes, or try to pull themselves up on a dog. Even the gentlest dog has limits – your baby must learn to be gentle.
It should go without saying that dogs should never be left unattended with babies or young children. As sweet and gentle as your furry friend is, a new baby can be extremely stressful for a pet, and they may behave unpredictably. But with a little work, you can introduce a dog to a baby and maintain harmony in your home for everyone!