As a total dog person, my dog has been my baby since I first brought him home seven years ago. We've been through lots of ups and downs together - but when we found out that we were expecting a baby I knew that I had to be thoughtful about introducing our four-legged baby to our newborn. Its a topic that I get asked about a lot, so I wanted to share the following tips that worked for our family when we brought home both my son and daughter, to meet our Golden Retriever.
Dogs thrive on schedules and predictability - not much different than a child! The trouble is, life with a newborn creates drastic shifts in your schedules, routines, and attention. Your pup will likely notice that things are changing - and once your attention has shifted to your new baby, it can cause stress and anxiety for your pup.
Getting ahead of this shift can make a huge difference! I let our dog hang out in the nursery while I was in there folding new clothes, stocking the changing table, etc. It made him feel comfortable in the room before we ever even had our baby.
Another important thing to remember is that if your dog hasn't master basic obedience, now is the time! It might seem like a hassle to take this on while you're preparing for a baby to arrive, but behavior that has previously been innocent can be a huge problem: jumping up to greet you at the door with a pregnant belly or laying on top of you on the couch or bed. These are all simple habits to break that a trainer can help with!
You also want to take stock of your dog's exposure to children. If they haven't been exposed to babies or kids before, you may want to spend some time at a park where they can get used to the noise of crying from afar! Equally useful is getting your dog prepared to walk beside your stroller - ask a mom friend if you can join her for a walk, or you can take your empty stroller for a walk with your dog just to get them used to the movements.
Once Baby Has Arrived
Once your baby has arrived, save one of the blankets he or she has been wrapped in to bring home while you're still at the hospital, so your dog can get used to your child's smell. By the time you come home with your baby, your pup will already be familiar with their smell and much more accepting of the new addition to the family!
For their first meeting, if you are able to do it helps to do it outside on 'neutral turf', but either way, have your partner hold the baby and enter the house first, greeting your pup like you normally would. Remember, you've been away for a few days and your dog will have missed you!!
After your pup has settled, sit down holding your baby and let your pup smell him or her a bit to get acquainted. It helps to have your partner right next to you so that if your pup gets excited, he or she can step in to help!
Lastly, one of the most important things is to include your pup in baby related activities. Our pup rests in the nursery during story time before bed, sleeps outside the nursery while our son naps, and loves going for family walks. It may take some time, and figuring out what works for your family is important to make everyone at ease and excited about this transition!