Bringing a newborn baby home for the first time is a huge shock for everyone, even for any dogs you have at home. Dogs rely on the comfort of daily routines and their very astute range of senses. A new baby throws both into chaos. That is why you should always prepare before introducing the dog to a new baby.
There’s no denying it’s a difficult time for most dogs. However, people can mitigate a lot of the potential issues they face when they bring home a new baby by doing some forward planning.
Here are some tips and key points to focus on when preparing your dog for a new baby coming home:
Teach Your Dog to Respond to Basic Commands
If your dog doesn’t already respond to basic commands, it’s never too late to start teaching them. It’s easier to spend time with them before the baby to make sure they sit, drop what they’re holding, stay, and come to you when called. After you have a newborn to care for, it’s harder to make time for training.
It’s particularly important they listen to you when you ask them to pick up or drop toys. They are probably used to having the run of the house and treating all toys as their own. With the addition of new baby toys, it’s important they listen when you tell them not to play with toys belonging to your baby.
Prepare Your Dog for Changes to Their Routine and Lifestyle
Drastic changes to lifestyle and routine are among the main causes of stress and anxiety in dogs. It’s hard to predict how your life will change with a new baby. Anything you can do to ease the transition into your new schedule will benefit your dog.
If someone else will be walking your dog or you anticipate changing the time they go for a walk, start doing that now. Likewise, if you currently spend a lot of time with your dog, start reducing that now. The baby will be taking up most of your time soon.
It’s hard to do, and it’s going to feel strange at first, but try to put yourself in the shoes of future you with a baby to look after. You know what your new routine will be better than anyone else. Start implementing as many changes that will affect your dog as you can.
Introducing Your Dog to the Sounds and Smells of the Baby
A dog’s sense of smell is around 40 times greater than ours. Babies bring a lot of smells into the home that will be new to them. It’s not just the smell of the baby themselves, but also all their toys, baby products, clothes, etc.
The sooner you unpack your baby stuff, the longer your dog will have to get used to the new smells. It’s also a good idea to leave some items unattended to see if your dog wants to pick them up.
This is where you can reinforce some basic commands as we mentioned above. If you can get them to respond to a firm “no” and redirect them to their own toys, it’s going to be a lot less stressful when you have your baby home.
It’s also a good idea to test how your dog reacts to the sound of a baby crying. Play a loop of a baby crying on your phone and place it in the baby’s room. See how your dog reacts to the noise.
Do this several times over the course of a few days and make sure you give your dog plenty of attention and a little treat afterward. This helps them associate the sound of a baby crying with fussing and treats and lessen the impact of the disruption when it’s real.
Prepare Your Dog for Physical Interaction with Your Baby
Your baby is going to tug on your dogs’ tail, pull their ears, poke at them, and grab at their fur from time to time – it’s inevitable.
The most effective way to prepare your dog for this and test their reaction is to actually do some of these things yourself. Gently test their temperament by giving them a soft tug and poke while reassuring them it’s OK with a soft voice and offering treats.
When your baby does the same things before you’re able to pull them away, you can reassure your dog with the same voice that it’s OK. They should then react the same as they did to you.
Still worried about introducing your dog to the baby? Keep reading about how pets interact with families and how you can influence their behavior.