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How to introduce your dog to your new baby

A pregnancy has an impact on the entire family. You might be excited, nervous, or worried. Remember that your dog will mirror your emotions.

Nobody tells you what to expect when you bring a new baby home to a house filled with four-legged friends.

Dogs, like newborns, thrive on consistency, and a baby radically transforms not only your life but your dog’s life as well. Don’t wait until your baby gets home to help your dog adjust to his new family. 

Follow our step-by-step approach to introducing your pet to your baby, beginning with things you can do to ease the transition while pregnant.

When you learn you’re expecting

If your dog has never attended a basic obedience class, now is the time to enrol him. Behaviour that appears innocuous now, such as jumping up to welcome you at the door, may become problematic when you’re eight months pregnant or holding a baby in your arms. A dog trainer can assist with any behaviour problems your dog may have.

In addition, start getting your dog more accustomed to being around children. Take your dog to your local park to observe how he interacts with children from a distance. Supervise children when they interact with your dog. Reward your dog with treats, toys, and games when children are around. Remove your dog from the situation at the first sign of stress.

Three months before your expected due date

Prepare your dog actively for his impending “sibling”. While it may sound silly, experts suggest you purchase a doll and treat it as you would a child. Carry it about the house, coo to it, and transport it in the baby carrier. Set up the bassinet, crib, and swing for the doll to “use”.

“You want the dog to be accustomed to these items now, not when your baby is in them,” says Betsy Saul, cofounder of the online pet-search site “Allow your dog to investigate things how he knows how: sniffing. And expose him to scents like baby lotion and powder,” Saul suggests.

Forget the cliché that an old dog can’t be taught new tricks. Stilwell suggests using the “back” signal, which is vital for teaching your dog about personal space. Standing immediately in front of your dog, say “back” and shuffle toward him, holding out your hand. He’ll naturally back up, and you can then reward him with praise, a pat on the head, or a dog biscuit. Over the next few weeks, gradually eliminate your forward movement so that you only have to elevate your hand and say “back”.

Two weeks before your due date

Unless you’ve arranged a caesarean section, your delivery date is anyone’s guess, so now is the time to ensure someone is on hand to take care of your dog while you’re in the hospital. Make a list of important phone numbers (including the vet’s), and keep all your dog’s items (food bowls, leash, dog bed, treats, etc.) in one location so the dog sitter knows where they are.

During your hospital stay

When your baby is born, and you are recovering from childbirth, your partner, a family member, or a friend should visit your home regularly to check that your pets are okay. Later, have Daddy or Grandma bring home one of your baby’s first babygrow or blankets so your dog can get used to your baby’s scent.

When you get home

Let your partner hold your baby when you arrive home from the hospital. Greet your dog first since he has missed you and will most likely greet you enthusiastically. After he’s calmed down, sit with your baby and allow your dog to smell the baby blanket.

Ask your partner to offer your pet a handful of treats, such as chicken nibbles, the first few times you nurse or give your baby a bottle.

“Dogs detect intimacy in nursing,” Saul says. “If they learn that being calm is rewarded, they’ll link feedings with happy times.”

Don’t forget that exercise is your dog’s happy pill amid all the newborn’s demands. Have your partner (or a friend) take your dog for a long daily walk.

How to Assist Them in Getting Along

Involve your dog in baby-related activities. Allow him to sit nearby as you change a nappy and converse with both of your “kids” simultaneously. Your baby will eventually transition from the stranger your dog is wary of to his favourite playmate and lifelong companion.

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