Introducing your Newborn to Your Family Dog
Nine months are ending and you are able to meet that precious bundle of joy brought to your life. For months, your dog has sensed that something was about to change. He might not know what, but he knows something is up. The good news is that you have the whole pregnancy to get your dog adjusted to the big homecoming.
Nine months is a good amount of time to work with your dog. Enough time to work out unwanted behaviors and have the dog see you as the leader. It may be a good idea to hire a professional to help you with managing these behaviors if you are inexperienced. Think of how great it will be to have the dog settle right into his position in “the pack”. The time and effort you put into working with your dog will be so worth it. Some of the basic commands that you may want the dog to perform are,
- Sit and Down
- Stay, wait at the door, and settle- this helps the dog control impulses which will prove useful in many situations. For example, if the baby is crying in the nursery have the dop sit and stay at the nursery door until the baby can be comforted and the situation is under control.
- Leave and drop it – this will teach the dog to leave the baby’s things alone.
- How to greet people- Teach how to properly greet someone. You would not want the dog jumping on someone to greet them while they are holding the baby.
- Relax in a crate- For many dogs, a crate is a place of security. Give the dog a place to go when the household is hectic.
- Go away- teaching a dog to go away will allow you to control the dog’s movements. For example, if the baby is crawling towards the dog, and the dog seems uncomfortable, you can use this order to separate and allow the dog to “go away”. A dog often does not know they can just get up and leave the situation.
You may want to start with the nursery off-limits to the dog. Eventually, you can allow the dog to sniff around the room to explore under your supervision. But you decide when the dog must leave. Show your dog that you are the leader and the nursery is off-limits.
Bring a possession of the baby’s home to be a changing blanket, a burp cloth, or an outfit the baby might have worn in the hospital. This will be an exercise in setting boundaries. You cannot let the dog come up to the cloth, the dog must sniff from a distance while you are holding the baby’s clothing. The dog will take this as the item is yours and you must give the dog permission for the dog to sniff. This will help the dog respect the baby as a member of the household.
You have brought the baby home. While the baby is getting settled, take the dog on a long walk to make sure to tire the dog out. When entering the house, make sure that the dog is calm and submissive before you enter. The dog will pick up the new scent immediately. If you worked with the baby’s scent it will be familiar to the dog. Whoever is holding the baby must be calm not allowing the baby to approach. Allow the dog to sniff but at a respectful distance. Do not allow the dog to get too close. Eventually allow the dog to get closer to the baby. This will help the dog enter the house energy depleted and calm.
Your baby is beginning to explore. Supervise all interactions between the baby and the dog. Now is the opportunity not to teach the baby not to pull on the dog’s tail, crawl over the dog, bite the dog’s ear, you get the idea. The lessons of mutual respect cannot begin soon enough.
You do not need to feel that the dog needs more treats or toys or special attention to keep him happy with a baby in the house. Maintain his routine. Get his walks in even if it is with a baby. Make sure you maintain as the leader in the house. This will help your dog feel more secure with a baby in the house.
Sometimes the dog cannot adjust with a baby in the house. If you have trained the dog, brought in a professional, and you do not feel 100% secure with the safety of your baby with the dog, then finding the dog a new home or surrendering your dog to your pet shelter is the step you may have to take.