5 Things To Remember When Introducing Your Newborn To Your Dog
Congratulations! You’re expecting a new member of the pack to join you soon. There’s plenty to do, and that includes introducing your newborn to the fur-family. “Will my baby be safe? What if our dog is jealous and lashes out? What about all those bad habits we’ve let go because we didn’t have a precious baby on the way? Can an illness, like a dog ear infection, be caught by my baby?” Luckily, there are a few simple and practical answers to keep the entire family safe, and tail-wagging happy.
Preparation Is The Best Beginning
Luckily, preparing for introductions can be fun and easy for you and your dog. Begin by finding a great dog trainer. Then, identify some bad habits you would like to break. You’ll be eliminating worry and stress, both now and in the future. Does your pup jump when greeting you at the door? Does he tend to grab treats from your hand, instead of patiently waiting and gently taking from your fingers when you give permission? These habits can translate into misunderstandings once a baby or toddler are getting some face-time with Fido. Working with your dog is also a great way to reinforce trust and build some bonding time together. Remember, a trainer can work with your dog directly, but guardians need training too. That way you’ll be able to offer consistency and reinforce everything your dog is learning. Plus, this is a great time to learn all about the different ways your dog thinks, learns, and understands the world around him so you can anticipate challenges, as well as communicate with your pup in ways he can understand.
Let Your Dog Explore Before Baby Arrives
You are bringing all kinds of new smells into your home, and it’s obvious changes happening. Car seats, baby swings, bottle warmers, baby powder, and more are flowing into your home. Your dog doesn’t really understand what it’s all about and is eager to explore. Let him! The more he gets himself familiar with all the new stuff, the less overwhelmed he’ll be when your baby actually arrives. Plus, you’ll want to nip a few things in the bud. Fido is probably used to every plush toy automatically belonging to him. Now, some of those plush toys belong to baby. Dogs are happy learners. Show him where the baby toys are. Let him explore, but when he grabs for a baby toy, give him a firm “no,” while redirecting him to his toy. By exploring early, he’ll be less excitable when he is finally introduced to your newborn.
Relax And Lead By Example
When it’s time to make the big introduction, your attitude and demeanor will set the tone for your pup. If you are nervous or fearful, your dog will be too. Being cautious is okay, but relaxed, calm, and cheerful will win. This should be a time of happy sounds, rewards, curiosity, and gentle nuzzles. If your pup becomes a bit too excited, just lead him out of the room and play for a bit to work off that energy. Throw a ball or go for a walk, then start over. For high-energy dogs, it can take a couple tries. The key is to keep things positive. For families with a lot of uncertainty, bringing a dog trainer to the introduction can help. Just remember that more people equals more energy and distraction. Dogs will want to put all their attention on this new pack member, and they’ll need guidance from a trusted friend. One guardian to look after and hold your baby, and one person to look after and guide Fido is just fine.
Learn About Dog Health
Even experienced parents with a full house will end up with a curveball or two when bringing a newborn home and getting to know them. This is a great time to understand dog health as well as human health. For example, ear infections are common among some breeds, but many new parents wonder whether a dog ear infection is something that can be caught, like the flu. It isn’t, by the way, but there are wonderful all-natural remedies out there that will keep your pup healthy. Talk to your vet about precautions to take and resources that may be helpful. Reducing uncertainty is one of the best possible ways to reduce stress.
Quality Supervision Has No Replacement
Learning doesn’t end for you, for baby, or for your dog, especially if you have a young dog who will constantly be curious about what’s happening. There are two key factors to a safe space for all family members: supervision and benefit of the doubt. Some dogs just seem to know all about babies, intuitively. Other dogs need direction. Either way, it’s inevitable that you’ll have to have your head turned for five-seconds at some point, which means there is an opening for misunderstandings. For example, tiny, curious, playful baby hands can cause unexpected pain to which anyone would have a reflex reaction. By bringing everyone together for supervised time where you can focus and be fully present, you’ll be ensuring everyone has a safe space to get to know each other and to learn how to play together during the early years.
Keep these five best practices in mind, and you’re sure to have success introducing your newborn to the fur-family. Plus, you will have set everyone up for a beautiful future together.