Hi Everyone! My name is Frida Covarrubias. I’m a dog trainer and a new mom.
Recently, I safely introduced my dogs to my newborn baby. I’ve decided to share my experience in order to help other new parents as they begin a new chapter.
In this post, I offer up advice for before, during and after your new baby’s arrival.
Before Baby Arrives
I started by preparing my dogs before the baby was even here. Leading up to the baby’s birth, I worked with the dogs to set boundaries, introduce new distractions, change up their routines, and reward them for calm behavior. Here’s what I did:
Set New Boundaries
First, by making the baby’s room and things off limits to the dogs, I established respect and space for your baby when they do arrive.
Introduce New Distractions
In the weeks leading up to my baby’s birth, I worked on desensitizing them to the new items and sounds that were going to be part of everyday life.
- Using any baby toys or equipment that made sounds or moved
- Playing newborn sounds and noises (babies crying, cooing, etc)
Change the Routine
We often try to go back to the way things were because they worked. You will soon realize there is no predictability when you bring a baby home and when you think you have a “schedule” down, your baby will shift it. For this reason, it’s a good idea to prepare your dog for the new, seemingly always-changing routine. Here are a few ideas that I tried:
- Walking my dogs with the empty stroller
- Randomly crating my dogs when home and at different times of the day
- Distinguish the difference between the dog’s toys and baby’s
For example, purposely place a stuffed animal, pacifier, bottle, etc…on the ground and reteach “leave it” with your dogs with these items.
With a baby, infant or toddler you can’t always keep up with picking up, so having a dog that listens and really isn’t interested in taking items off the ground anymore is helpful.
Reward Calm Behavior
When my dogs were able to remain calm around these changes and additions, I made sure to reward them so they understood that calm behavior was what I wanted.
Before baby arrives: Try taking your dogs for walks with an empty stroller.
Notice how the dog is completely calm and relaxed around the baby. Because Mom doesn’t allow baby to grab at him, he knows his space is respected.
When Baby Arrives
The introduction isn’t really a typical introduction. It’s more like a slow integration. There is not an actual “here is the baby” moment because the dog and baby are introduced by coexisting.
- To be successful, the key is taking it slowly.
- Always watch for any signs that your dog is uncomfortable. This is especially important as your baby starts becoming more mobile and curious. The last thing you want is to introduce your dogs to your baby and have your dogs get nervous, or worse, for your dog to try and take ownership of the baby.
- You will be throwing your old routine out the window and starting a new normal. Dogs are very adaptable and as you develop your day to day with the baby, they will be able to handle the changes.
Bring Baby Home First
If possible, bring your baby home while the dogs are away.
Once my baby was home and settled, I went to pick up my dogs. I made sure to continue their training and did the following:
Use the Crate
When the dogs first got home I put them in their crates right away. This was to let them take everything in without getting too excited.
Don’t feel guilty. Your newborn will take priority and that’s ok.
When guests come over, the crate is the best place for your dogs to be so they don’t accidentally jump on someone holding your baby.
Introduce Baby’s Scent
I brought something with the baby’s scent. I chose the blanket the baby had been wrapped in at the hospital.
Once the dogs sniffed the blanket, I asked for them to settle and give space to the item. This associated the baby’s scent with relaxation and personal space. My goal was for the dogs to remain calm, and not get too close, if anyone is holding the baby near them.
By learning this association, I knew my dogs would be safe and respect my baby’s space when home.
Enforce Boundaries for Both Your Dog and Baby
Set and enforce clear boundaries. Knowing and enforcing boundaries early on, for both your dog and baby, will help every member of the family understand the role they play.
In the photo above, you can see the dog is calm and relaxed because he knows his owner will not allow the baby to pull on him, climb on him, or bother him. He trusts his space is safe because his owner always advocates for him.
Fit in activities when you can. This might include putting your dog in the ‘Place’ command while you feed your baby, or having your dogs work on a snuffle mat or puzzle toy and making sure to get out for some fresh air and a walk when you need to.
Bringing home a baby is a big change, and then to also introduce your dogs to your baby, can feel like a lot of pressure as you are learning to care for an infant. Be sure to ask for help from friends or family if you need it.
Hiring a dog walker or looking into a doggy daycare can help lift some pressure when you need it. Luckily it gets better, and eventually you can’t picture life without your dogs and baby in it together.
*If you, or someone you know is struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
Your New Chapter
If you’re trying to safely introduce your dog to your newborn baby, give some of these tips a chance. You’ll put yourself in a great position to have a wonderful relationship with both of your babies.
And remember, If you struggle or get overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to enlist help.
Good luck and congratulations on your new chapter in life!
Have you tried this advice or want to tell us about your own experience?
Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.