Helpful Hints When Introducing Babies and Dogs

Here’s a list from American Kennel Club of helpful tips when introducing babies and dogs:

  • Make gradual changes to your dog’s routines—such as a change in where the dog sleeps or when he gets walked —before the baby comes home so that the dog will not associate the changes with the baby. Go through the baby’s routine before the baby arrives, including changing, feeding, rocking and walking with an empty stroller
  • Lessen the amount of play and attention you give your dog two to three weeks before the baby comes home. You do not want to “last minute” lavish your dog with affection, only to have it stop when the baby comes back.
  • Play a tape recording of various baby sounds in your house for increasing lengths of time so your dog can adjust to the new sounds before you bring the baby home.
  • Acclimate your dog to baby smell, including lotion, powder, etc. Once the baby is born, bring an article of the baby’s clothing or a baby blanket home so the dog can get used to the infant’s scent.
  • Before baby arrives, teach your dog to “go to place.” You can use any mat, bed, or defined area to teach this behaviour, and transferred to other locations. Stand beside the bed or area you want your dog to go. Point to the area, praise as soon as your dog is in his place, and reward with treats. Use a release command like “Okay!” and toss a treat to encourage your dog to come off the mat. When your dog learns where his place is, add a sit or down. Use “place” as a command for where I point and then sit or down.
  • Gradually increase the length of time the dog stays on the bed and give your dog something rewarding on his place, like a chew toy.
  • When you arrive home with the newborn, first greet your dog alone, so it doesn’t get excited and jump on the baby.
  • Allow your dog to adjust to the smell, sight and sound of the baby for a few days before introducing them in closer proximity.
  •  After a few days, allow the dog to sniff the baby while controlled on a leash. Pet him and give him praise while he smells. Most dogs adapt quickly, but always take precautions.
  • Always allow the dog to approach you and the baby. Allow the dog to choose to interact with the baby. Invites prevent bites.
  • Once your dog is used to the baby’s smell, allow the dog to sniff the baby off leash. Your dog may react differently if the baby suddenly screams, cries or kicks and interpret these signs as an invitation to play or as a warning. When interacting with the dog and baby, keep the baby elevated and made sure an adult is between them at all times. Dog-adult- baby seating order.
  • Give your dog plenty of attention when the baby is around. You don’t want him to decide good things only happen when the baby isn’t around.
  •  Don’t scold the dog for picking up the baby’s toys. You don’t want the smell of the baby being associated with anything negative. Merely replace the child’s toy with the dog’s.
  • Babies change quickly, and it can be difficult for the dog to adapt as quickly. Once your baby begins to crawl, make sure that he/she doesn’t pull on the dog’s tailor ears. Snapping and growling are natural canine behaviours when they are trying to communicate a warning. Even the most tolerant dog has its limits!
  • Never leave even the most trusted dog alone with a baby or small child!
  • Have “safety zones” for the dog. A safe zone is a private space – a crate, a bed, a gated laundry room, etc. where he or she can get away when the activity is too much for him or her. Children should not be allowed to “invade” the dog’s private space.
  • It is OK to keep the dog out of the baby’s room with a gate, etc., especially if he is curious and attempts to jump on the crib or changing table.

To learn more check out our blog about introducing your pet to your new baby here.

Written by Sam Bruno, RVT