The thought of something bad happening to your baby-to-be is terrifying, let alone at the hands of a loved family member (including dogs, obviously), It’s also obvious that the dog would take the blame if anything ever happened. Knowing how to introduce a dog a newborn will make the adjustment way easier.
With so many millennials putting off parenting, it’s more common for us to opt-in for a fur child. This little survey even tells us that dogs are influencing home purchases. And I can’t debate that, because it’s exactly what happened to us! First came love, then came marriage, then came the dog and a yard.
But once human babies come into play, there’s a new dynamic at play. The list of things that could go wrong is scary-long… and the punishment varies from rehoming to euthanasia. So for the sake of all of our babies, we need to properly prepare. Dogs can be unreasonable but are generally predictable. As dog owners, our most important job is setting them up for success. It will be worth every bit of effort!
A little background on my dog (& where I’m coming from)
He is WILD. A complete sweetheart, but the bull in a china shop type. For the curious dog-lovers, he’s a Belgian Malinois and a total ham. They are arguably better than German Shepherds (hehe) because of their agility and lighter frame. They’re basically the same dog, but Malinois are known more for NEVER CALMING DOWN. They are loyal AF, but incredibly hardworking. These are the dogs they took to Osama Bin Laden, if you know what I’m saying.
My husband (an ex-soldier) had to have one. We adopted him as an 8-week-old puppy from the tiniest little farm town in Germany, and he is still my fluffy baby boy. But thanks to some toddlers in our neighborhood, he had a fear of kids.
Still, almost 2 years later, I was more afraid of him accidentally jumping on the baby (while scaring away the UPS driver) than biting her, but I wouldn’t leave anything up to chance. There is still too much at stake.
My pregnancy hormones were raging and I was ready to give him up before my daughter was born. And then the hormones switched gears and I was crying over losing my dog & #furstborn. So my husband and I worked out a solution, and it couldn’t have worked better. Our daughter is now 2 and our dog is pushing 4. We have had no real issues.
Something everyone Needs to Know
Just a little disclaimer and something you should always keep in mind – do not ever leave your baby with a dog. Even little dogs, old dogs, puppies. Just…. no.
No matter how “nice” or well-tempered you think a dog is… Always. Supervise.
Dogs will almost always hint at undesirable behavior, but kids can’t pick up on it for years. You aren’t out of the woods until well after the baby phase. Kids need to learn dog safety ASAP.
Also, as instinctive as dogs may be, you can never assume that the dog knows to not harm the child. It’s not worth it. But here’s what IS worth it:
How to prepare your dog for baby (& an infographic for easy reference!)
It’s a little misleading for me to claim that this is all about the introduction. The actually “meeting” will be over so fast that you won’t be able to put much into action.
The truth is that it’s an ongoing effort, but the sooner the better. Here are the tips that helped us get our completely crazy, high-energy home protection breed.
1. Master basic commands
Expectations will vary from dog owner to dog owner, and so will the commands themselves. But you need to speak your dog’s language or at least come to an understanding.
Start by correcting the behaviors that would make your biggest fears a reality.
Since I was so scared of my dog mindlessly pouncing on the couch or bed and crushing my little baby bundle, we practiced off every time he was on something.
We stopped allowing him on the bed or couch while we were on it (and anytime we saw him on it). Within a week or two, he stopped jumping on anything that we were sitting on, but we had the “OFF” command ready to go.
Jumping was another bad behavior we had to break. I didn’t want him jumping on anyone who was holding the baby, but since dogs aren’t great at understanding circumstances, a universal no-jumping rule had to be in place. This is where “down” came into play.
My other favorite command is “leave it”. This one keeps him off her toys/food 😉 Remember: Consistency is key.
2. Praise calm behavior
Dogs deserve ALL THE LOVE when they are being super good. Feel free to whip out the treats and let them know that quiet, relaxed, submissive But it’s important to make sure you DO NOT REWARD nervous or neurotic behavior.
Learn your dog’s anxious state, and be sure to never pet or cuddle your pet when they’re being crazy. This is one area where dogs totally differ from humans. They don’t need to be comforted like we do. Instead, comforting them when their worried or scared makes them think it’s GOOD to be on edge and ready to snap.
To discourage snappiness, ignore them. Not just the behavior, but the dog.
3. Get Familiar with the Gear
As soon as you get a stroller/crib/bouncer/blankets – let your dog explore them. A lot of dogs are scared of wheels like those on your stroller, so this is a great chance to cut that crap out.
Also, we want to make sure there is no weird aggression towards the new baby products. I’m talking about things like chewing or ripping blankets, barking at stuffed animals, and stuff like that. We want to watch for things that would be red flags if there was an actual baby hanging out.
**Another good idea is to get your dog comfortable walking next to the stroller. That is a whole different ball game.
4. Go to the Playground
Another prime opportunity to recognize and correct any undesired behavior. Taking your dog around a playground (not in it) will bring interested kids and show your dog’s true colors. Take this opportunity to work on letting your dog meet [small] strangers with a very watchful eye and a heavy hand (if necessary!).
The goal here is to let your dog know that kids are awesome, and they shouldn’t be feared. Also – they are on the same level as YOU, the owner. Kids are alphas to dogs, and your dog needs to know that.
5. DAY ONE
The big day!! The new best friend day! The day you bring your baby home from the hospital.
Since you probably won’t have a dog-friendly birthing experience, your dog is probably being boarded or babysat elsewhere. This is PERFECT, because my point is that you do not want the new baby to come home with the dog already there.
It will probably be fine, but we are trying to get off on the right foot here. And if there is a strange new creature coming into your dog’s space, you really don’t know what will happen.
If the baby is there FIRST, without the dog present, then the dog will have a better understanding of the baby’s position in the pack. (Btw, you are your dog’s pack leader. Newcomers don’t have a rank, so to speak. But having the baby already inside will give the right idea.)
No matter how big or small your dog is, it’s safest to use a leash. If there is mild aggression, you will have the situation under control.
With the dog leashed, and baby in your arms, you are in the best possible scenario to introduce your dog to your new baby. Be sure to have those treats on hand, because if you’ve prepared then it will go perfectly! And from now on it’s all about encouraging the right behavior around the baby.
And of course, do not hesitate to firmly DISCOURAGE bad behavior. But entirely negative training has its downsides, which is why I always emphasize responding to GOOD behavior at every opportunity.
6. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Dogs deserve (and need) their own space. A place to call home and escape from things they don’t like. As your baby grows, they will need to understand that the dog’s place is not for babies.
It could be a dog bed, a crate, a chair, or anything. It just needs to be a safe place for your furry child. A space to call their own and run away when they really don’t want to be around kids. This is a topic that I cannot stress enough. We ALL need our own safe place, and a sweet canine is no different. A happy home has a secret spot to stay away from those potentially incriminating encounters.
I would argue that this is the MOST important part of setting yourself up for success. Just like with anybody, things can get out of hand FAST if we can’t properly diffuse the situation. And since a dog can’t politely ask a baby to stop, their best alternative is to run away.
Let them have their [baby-free] space. It’s better for everyone.
To wrap this up, I’ve created an infographic for you to refer back to. Feel free to save/print/SHARE this with anyone and SUBSCRIBE for more modern mom tips, tricks, and insight because your situation might be new, but I’m going through it too!