Whilst pregnant, other than the obvious big questions (was that a contraction or a braxton hick?), one of big pieces that we pondered was how to best, and safely, introduce our family dog to baby. To make sure we did it in a way that would keep both the fur and fur-less babies happy, we talked to a few experts including our Vet and my sister (who’s a trained Vet Nurse and works as in animal welfare). They both had some great tips for introducing your newborn to the family dog!
The biggest tip for introducing your newborn to the family dog was to ensure that the dog kept getting the same amount of attention; but that it could come in different forms/from different sources! Here are some more tips on introducing your newborn to the family doggo:
1. Offer baby’s hospital blanket or a muslin to the dog before you introduce them.
This allows the dog to smell the new human and get use to their scent before meeting them. It helps create some familiarity for the dog. Your scent will also be on the blanket/muslin, and this will help doggo to understand that you have a new member in the family!
2. Have a friend/family member take the dog out (for a walk, drive, anything!) to give you time to come home and put baby down.
I don’t know about anyone else, but our border collie loves to say hi to us when we get home. Heck, he loves to say hi to us if we’ve just popped outside to put the bins out. Something that worked really well for us was to have my mother and brother in law bring our dog into the house after we’d gotten home. This allowed us time to put baby down and have both hands free to pat him and say hi before introducing them. Dog felt important and loved, and then got to meet his new (future) play mate!
3. Teach dog a reset command.
Something that has always been important for our border collie is a reset command. We use “go to bed” or “go find [toy]”, so that if he starts to get overactive or overwhelmed, we can help support him to refocus and calm down. This has been especially helpful when I’ve been solo parenting, baby is crying and I’ve not been able to get the dog out for a walk. Everyone’s emotions and energy are running high, but using the “go find toy” command helps doggo to exit my immediate space whilst still engaging him and helping him feel the love. Essentially, playtime without me having to actively play with him!
4. Ensure dog has a safe place before introducing your newborn to the family dog.
Something else that can come with babies are a lot of visitors. There are likely lots of people (and lots of new people) coming and going from the house. We re-homed our dog at 13 months old, and he was already mostly crate trained. And he loves his crate. It’s his favourite place to chill out, but it’s also a safe place for him to go when we have visitors (midwife, health visitor etc.) who maybe aren’t dog people. So having a crate, a room, a bed, a blanket, anything that is designated as the dog’s own space is a great way to help manage that overwhelm. Plus, it’s never too early to prepare for the toddler years, right? Give the dog somewhere to go when they’re not vibing with the toddler chaos.
5. Plan for extra engagement activities.
Walks, outings, new toys. You might be low on availability, especially with your hands being busy taking care of an infant, so plan some things that dog can do to stay busy. Taking dog and baby out for walks is great, but maybe ask a friend/family or a dog walker to help you out upon occasion. Book a secure dog field so that dog can run free whilst you play with baby. Get a Kong, stuff it and freeze it and give it to dog to lick. Smother a lick mat with peanut butter! We subscribe to a monthly dog treat box, it comes with treats and toys and our dog knows exactly what it is when it comes in the post!
6. Get the noisy baby equipment and toys out before baby arrives.
This one is important. Let dog get use to the sounds and new items. We had to do a bit of “that’s not your toy, this is your toy” training, and now our dog will lay next to baby’s play mat, each playing with their own toys. Some dogs are triggered by noises, so it’s important to help them adjust to new noises slowly before the environment changes drastically when that tiny human comes home! We even tried playing the sound of a baby crying on our phones, and popping that in the moses basket covered by a muslin. I’m not sure how effective it was, but it encouraged him to explore the moses basket.
There we have it! Our best tips on introducing your newborn to the family dog. Have you introduced a pet to a baby? How did it go? Post your best tips in the comments below!