Bringing a baby home is an exciting time for both you and your pet. Though it may take some time for your dog to adjust to the new family member, you can ease the transition by preparing your pet for this change.
EditIn a Hurry?
Before you have your baby, get your dog accustomed to children by taking walks near schools or inviting children into your home. Let your dog sniff baby lotions, and play a recording of baby noises to familiarize it with the baby’s presence. If you’re worried about how your dog will adapt to your new schedule, try varying its meal times and walking schedule to help it cope with the upcoming changes. For tips on how to use praise to create a healthy relationship between your dog and the baby when you get home from the hospital, keep reading.
EditTraining Your Dog to Remain Calm
- Make sure your dog undergoes obedience training. You want your dog to easily respond to basic commands, like “Sit” or “Stay”, and that it knows its manners when it comes to jumping up, barking, and getting on furniture. Several months before the baby’s arrival, dedicate 10-15 minutes each day to keep reviewing these commands and add on more difficult ones.
- An essential command is “Go to place”. Use a new bed as a “safe space” for your dog. Point to the location while repeating the verbal command. Reward its behavior with treats and praise. Gradually increase the time the dog stays at the designated location or remains at a certain distance by providing a toy. 
- Introduce your dog to children. To your dog, babies and children might be frightening, namely due to their sudden movements or high-pitched sounds. Introduce your dog to children by visiting parks or schools, gradually decreasing the distance, and praising it when it remains calm.
- Make sure to keep the dog on a leash and consult a professional if it shows problematic behaviors, like continuous barking or growling. 
- Later on, invite friends with babies or children to visit your home, keeping your dog on a leash and praising your dog when it exhibits good behavior.
- Establish new boundaries, and train your dog to respect them. Set up baby gates, and make sure your dog knows not to cross them by giving rewards when it “Sit-Stays” outside the gate. If your dog will not be allowed into the baby’s room, then practice opening the door and having your dog “Sit-Stay” right outside. Close the door when you’re not using the room. 
EditPreparing the Environment for the Baby’s Arrival
- Desensitize your dog to baby sounds and scents. Several months before your baby’s arrival, start preparing your dog for the new smells and scents, which might be overwhelming if introduced all at once.
- Play tapes of baby giggles, screams, and cries, gradually increasing the length and volume over the weeks. 
- Introduce your dog to baby scents, lotions, and creams by rubbing the scents on your hands and allowing your dog to become accustomed to the new smell.
- Change your dog’s routine. Your new baby will completely change your routine, and as a result, your pet’s routine. Make sure to gradually introduce your pet to the coming changes over several months, so he doesn’t associate the baby with the disruption to its routine. Change where your dog sleeps by buying a pet bed and moving it to another room. Walk it at different times of day, and change its feeding times.
- You might be so exhausted the first few weeks, so consider hiring a dog walker and introducing your dog to them at an early stage. Have them take your dog out for occasional walks so your dog can get used to walking without you. 
- Prepare your dog for a variable feeding schedule by switching its feeding times on different days. After all, you don’t want your dog to panic if you accidentally sleep through its 8 am feeding. Alternatively, purchase an automatic feeder, which you can set to deliver foods at set times each day. 
- Ease your dog’s adjustment to a baby with a doll. Having a doll, particularly one that makes sounds, around the house will allow you to prepare your pet. Lavish the doll with attention, and praise your dog when it remains calm and polite around the doll. 
- You may also practice walking the dog with the doll in the stroller, but make sure to never wrap the dog’s leash around the stroller’s handle.
- Change the time allotted for attention. When your baby comes, they will take up most of your attention, and if this change is instant, your dog may feel hurt or jealous. Three to four weeks before the baby arrives, start limiting the overall attention you give your pet. Instead, have short, spontaneous cuddle and play sessions, giving it less attention throughout the day.
- Arrange for a caretaker while at the hospital. Make sure to plan for the days you will be at the hospital, and prepare your pet for your absence. Whether you will drop your pet off at doggy daycare or a friend’s home, give your dog practice by dropping them off at the location for a weekend or two.
EditIntroducing Your Dog to the Baby
- Greet your dog alone. When you first arrive home from the hospital, greet your dog with lots of hugs and cuddles. It will be very excited, so make sure it doesn’t jump on your baby by introducing yourself first.
- Adjust your dog to your baby’s presence. For the first couple of days, keep your baby away from the dog. Let it adjust to the new sights, sounds, and smells. Give it one of the baby’s blankets so it can associate the baby with its smell. After a few days, put your dog on a leash and invite it to smell the baby. Praise and pet it while it sniffs. 
- Lavish your dog with attention when your baby is around. You don’t want your dog to think that praise and attention come only when the baby isn’t there. Have your dog practice “Sit-Stay” in the corner of a room while you are holding the baby, praising it and giving treats when it obeys.
- Be positive around your pet. Your pet’s senses are probably overwhelmed, so don’t isolate the dog or punish it if it acts up. Instead, reward positive behavior. For example, if your dog picks up a baby’s toy, simply switch it with a dog’s toy. Have plenty of toys and treats on hands to reward your pet when it remains calm and polite around your baby.
- Keep your pet healthy. Despite the changes to your routine, don’t forget to feed your pet, play with it, or take it out for walks. In addition to 10-15 minute daily training intervals, these periods of time might be the only slots of time you have to spend one-on-one with your pet. It’s important you maintain your connection with your dog, so it understands that it and the baby can coexist happily.
- Never leave your pet and the baby together unsupervised. Be cautious when your baby and dog are socializing, no matter how well it seems that your pet is adjusting to the new family member.
- If your dog shows warning signs, like growling, tense body language, or aggressive barking, transfer your pet to another location and consult a dog behavior professional.