Whether you are pregnant, adopting or expecting a baby through surrogacy there are changes taking place in your home that your dog can sense well before the baby arrives. There are often new emotions, excitement and stress, along with the baby items and nursery furniture. It’s best to start preparing your dog as early as possible for the addition of a new baby. There a few key things you can do to make this introduction as smooth as possible for the entire family.
Dog Training or Obedience Classes
You can enlist the help of a dog trainer or obedience classes if you haven’t already. Before the baby arrives, you want your dog to have a firm understanding of commands to sit, stay, and get down. You might also want them to understand a command for dropping something or for waiting to proceed. This is one of the best ways to be proactive before introducing your dog to the baby’s things and spaces. Some dog trainers even offer classes specifically to prepare dogs for babies and children.
You will want to establish and reinforce boundaries and limitations for your dog before the baby comes home. You might start off with teaching your dog the nursery is off limits. You can slowly introduce them to baby items and teach them to wait at the nursery door to be invited in with you. Let them sniff the new things, then leave the room with you. If they have been allowed on furniture, you might give new limitations, so they don’t jump in the crib or play yard. Start showing your dog the baby items they are not allowed to touch and teaching them before the baby ever comes home.
Praising the behavior you want to see, like staying calm and following commands is a really good way to reinforce expectations. It might be wise to enlist the help of a dog trainer or professional to curb negative behaviors your dog exhibits even if they aren’t a major problem yet. Of course recruit help if your dog exhibits aggressive or dangerous behavior or reacts negatively to smaller animals or children.
Play the Sounds a Baby Makes
Starting at a low volume, you can play videos or recordings of babies fussing, crying or babbling. As long as the dog remains calm, you can slowly increase the volume. Watch them for signs of stress and praise them for calm or submissive behavior. You can play these sounds often throughout the day and in different areas of the house. Eventually work up to playing the sound of a baby crying loudly for longer periods of time.
Establish a Routine
Start making any adjustments you think might need to happen as early as you can. Your attention will be divided after the baby arrives, so if you’ll be using a pet sitter or dog walker, introduce them early. If you’re going to hire a postpartum doula, they can help to ease the transition by caring for the baby while you or a partner take the dog out to play or go for a walk. They can also help to give the dog some extra attention while they are working you’re your family. Once you are physically ready, you can use a stroller or baby carrier to take the baby with you on walks with the dog. Working the dog into your schedule with the baby will help everyone to get the attention and routine they need.
Plan the Introduction
Before you arrive home with the baby, if it’s possible, have someone bring something the baby used like a blanket or burp cloth home first to let the dog get familiar with the baby’s scent. One person can take the dog to the dog park or out to walk and play before the introduction to get all of their energy out. When your dog meets the new baby, you want everyone to be as calm as possible. You might even want to have the dog on its leash or one parent with the dog and another holding the baby. Let the dog slowly get closer to the baby and smell the baby from a safe distance. Remember to praise calm behavior and make sure the dog has somewhere safe away from the baby to go if things get stressful. Some dogs feel protective of the babies and children in their family, and stay close as much as they can, but remember to always supervise babies and pets.
As your baby grows, starts exploring and becomes mobile you will need to teach the baby to be respectful of the dog with gentle touches. There will be so many opportunities for teaching both the baby and the dog mutual respect, to keep everyone safe and happy. Be proactive, keep the routine predictable and praise good behavior.
Did you do anything special to prepare your dog for their first human sibling?