How to Introduce Your Dog to Your New Baby
Dr. Ilana Reisner
Even the most realistic parents often underestimate the time and energy needed to care for a newborn. In the wake of a baby's homecoming, your pet will have to relinquish his spot as top dog. How, then, can you make sure that he doesn't become jealous?
Dogs vary quite a bit in how easily they welcome a new family member. You can help your pet accept his new role by taking a few simple steps.
While it's important to maintain your dog's daily schedule, you can gradually adjust his timetable by making changes at least a month or so before the baby arrives. Is his exercise routine likely to change, for example, from leash walks to yard time? Start making the change now. Will you be restricting his freedom by placing baby gates in doorways? Put some up well before the baby arrives. Early and gradual changes in the physical environment, and in daily routines, can help your dog adjust more easily once the baby comes home.
Let Dog Smell Baby Items
After your baby is born, but while he or she is still in the hospital, send home some items carrying his or her smells, including blankets or clothing. It's also a good idea to record your baby's noises and cries, letting someone play them for your dog to see his reaction and to acclimate him to the unfamiliar sounds. Dogs typically will show some interest but little agitation. If your dog seems particularly upset by your baby's sounds, ask your veterinarian for further information about safety issues.
Finally, when your baby comes home, be prepared with a collar and leash so that your dog can easily be controlled. A leash is preferable to continuous reprimands as your dog jumps up, excited to see his "mom" again. Another adult can hold your baby while mom and dog greet each other. After everyone has calmed down, you might allow your dog, still on a leash, to investigate little feet or hands.
Once his curiosity is satisfied, the average dog will ignore a newborn. However, for the sake of safety, even the most accepting and gentle dog should never be left alone with an infant, whether your baby is awake, sleeping, in a carrier, or on the floor.