When it’s just you, your partner, and the dog, life is good. But what happens when you introduce a new baby into the mix? How will your first baby feel?
Dogs are all about their routines. When dogs react poorly to a new baby, it’s because their routine is being shaken up and they’re getting tossed to the side.
As your dog’s person, parent, handler, mom, whatever your dog calls you, it’s your responsibility to make your dog feel secure throughout the process.
Here are 5 things you can do to make the adjustment easy on your pup.
1) Make any major changes in advance of baby’s arrival
If your dog sleeps with you, has a walk at a specific time, goes on furniture, etc., you need to consider if you are going to make any changes when baby arrives.
Any big changes you are going to make should happen before the baby comes home. This way, your dog will not associate the new baby with all the new changes.
Imagine you are your dog. Every night you sleep in a cozy human bed with your favorite person in the world. Suddenly, a new small loud creature enters the house and you are kicked out of the bed. What are you going to think of that little monster? You’re not going to be too fond of them, right? So if you want your dog to start sleeping in their own bed, kick them out while you are pregnant.
But really there’s no reason to stop sleeping with a pet. Studies show, babies who grow up in homes with pets are actually healthier than those without. So don’t worry about the dog getting too close to the baby.
Oh, you’ve already brought baby home and it’s too late to make changes in advance? No problem. Read on.
2) Get your dog used to baby gizmos without baby present
Say you’ve bought the snoo, the mamaroo, or even just a stroller. The movements, noises, and motions could be scary for your dog. Just like most dogs don’t like the vacuum, they probably aren’t’ going to be too fond of the moving furniture. So set up your new devices wherever you plan on having them and turn them on without the baby around.
Again, you want to make sure you’re not associating the new device with the baby.
Even if you’ve already brought the baby home, you can still do this activity without the baby in the device. Turn on the mamaroo and give your dog a treat for going over to it. Take your dog for a walk with the stroller without the baby in it and reward them for walking well. Even just opening and closing the stroller could be scary, so practice this without the baby.
You can do this with any new addition that may be unfamiliar to your dog.
3) Reward your dog for each positive interaction
You want to teach your dog that having baby around is a good thing. What better way to do this than with your dog’s favorite treats?
Anytime the dog sniffs the baby, licks the baby, or sits calmly near the baby, praise them. Tell them how wonderful they are and pat their head.
Avoid negative interactions. If the dog is too aggressive with the baby, don’t discipline them. Simply remove the baby or dog from the situation and encourage the behavior you want to see.
If your dog is acting aggressively towards the baby, seek professional training. There are changes you can make to support your dog in their adjustment.
Don’t jump to rehoming your dog. Just as your dog has brought you years of love, companionship, and friendship, in time they will offer your baby the same unconditional love. Dogs can even go as far as providing emotional support to your child and helping them to reach development milestones, like awareness of others and lessons around gentle touch and boundaries.
4) Make your dog feel special
You don’t want your dog to be jealous of the new baby. The baby is going to get exciting new toys, so make sure to get your dog some special new toys too. Give the new toys to your dog one at a time to keep things fresh.
You can also get your dog special chews or bones and give them to him while you’re playing with the baby so the dog has something to do.
Don’t forget to give your dog special love and attention.
5) Create activities for baby and dog
Dogs and babies are so compatible. They both love long walks, but there’s so much they’ll love to do together at home.
Newborns need tummy time to develop strong neck muscles and learn to hold their head up. Invite your dog to join! Your dog will love hanging out on the playmat with you and baby.
Let your dog sit with you while you feed your baby. Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding, your dog can snuggle up next to you while baby eats and be included in the action.
As baby gets older and starts exploring whole foods, your dog will quickly learn where to hang out to get the good treats.
Pro tip: This is a great thing to do with a toddler who is adjusting to a newborn as well. Really all these tips work equally well for toddlers. Toddlers and babies have a lot in common.
At the end of the day, your dog was used to being your one and only. Make sure they still feel loved and connected to you and they will grow to absolutely love your baby.