New Pet Owner
Bringing A Baby Into A Dog’s World
Use the nine months before the baby arrives to help your dog adjust to a change in status — and to learn how to safely welcome the baby home.
The Internet is filled with adorable photos of dogs and babies together — a recent one features a pit bull giving a diaper-clad tot a tongue bath.
Yet not all kids and dogs are as trusting and devoted — at least not at first. If you will be bringing a baby into your dog-loving home, take steps to ensure that both will be safe and the seeds of friendship are planted.
Before the Baby Arrives
Your dog is used to being the center of attention in your household. Soon, however, he’s going to have to adjust to playing second fiddle. Prepare for the change by:
Boning up on obedience. It’s never been more important for your dog to respond to your commands, whether it’s telling him to sit and stay or not jump up. So spend some time reminding him who’s the leader of the pack.
Easing up on attention. This may not be easy, since dogs are such wonderful and emotionally supportive companions. But you’ll be doing your dog a favor by getting him used to the idea that you can’t devote as much time to him any more. So ignore attention-seeking behavior.
Introducing baby smells and sounds. Before bringing baby home, acquaint your dog with a blanket or other item that’s touched the baby. Pet him while she smells it to foster a positive association. If possible, record the sounds of a baby crying and play it to familiarize your dog. Also patiently permit the dog to smell all the new baby equipment that you bring into the house, from baby lotion to stroller and crib.
Varying feeding times. Babies can upend household schedules, including your dog’s regular meal times. Get him used to the change by feeding earlier and later than usual.
Creating a dog’s personal space. Choose a crate or a special corner and populate it with toys.
Visiting the veterinarian. Make sure your dog is in tip-top shape, vaccinations are up to date, receives heartworm medication, protection from fleas and ticks and is microchipped.
After The Baby Arrives
The household is different now, and the work you’ve done should make it easier for your dog to accept the new member. Helpful tips:
Allow the dog to smell the baby. When you, the dog, and the baby are all calm, hold the baby and permit the dog to sniff him or her from a safe distance. For extra security, keep the dog leashed and have someone hold the other end.
Make the crib off-limits. Do not allow the dog to jump on or into the crib. “If you plan to spend time in the baby’s room when you’re nursing or rocking him or her to sleep, teach your dog to spend quiet time in the room with you,” the ASPCA advises.
Exercise the dog. Tire the dog out with long walks. If you can afford it, pay a dog walker to lead him on an extended walk once a day and also reinforce training commands in a protected area.
Don’t neglect your dog. Sure, his routine and schedule will change, but he will always appreciate a scratch behind the ears and hearing your words of love.
Be vigilant. Until you are 110% sure of how your dog will react to this newcomer in their home territory, it is recommended to never leave them alone together.
Seek professional help if necessary. If your dog starts to misbehave or display overt signs of jealousy, contact a trainer for assistance sooner rather than later. Too many loving dogs end up in shelters because they weren’t taught to live with a baby, yet with a little effort that can be accomplished.
Susan Breslow is the former Head of Publications for the ASPCA and the author of the children’s book “I Really Want a Dog.” She writes about pets and people and cares for two rescued cocker spaniels.