Bringing a new baby home is a time filled with plenty of excitement, but also with nerves too. Maybe even more so when you have to introduce the latest family member to another special family member: your fur baby! The key to success is to start prepping early – at least four months before your bundle arrives – and if you stick to these tips, that first intro should be a breeze for human and pooch alike.
Before bubba is born
Let’s get this training started: It never hurts to get the professionals in, and enrolling you and your pooch on a reward-based training programme is beneficial to all. Let’s face it, kids never listen, so you may as well get in a win by having a dog who does.
Touch zones: Make sure your pooch is relaxed and happy about being touched all over. One day that tiny baby is going to be on the move, and Rover needs to be chilled about being touched by everyone. If your dog is a tad sensitive about being touched, work with a trainer ahead of baby’s arrival to nip this issue in the bud.
What’s that noise?: Babies are noisy! Play recordings of tiny people crying, screaming and gurgling at random times of the day. Increase the volume gradually as your dog becomes accustomed to the sounds.
New smells and objects: Not only will there be an assault of sound in the house, but with the tiny tot also comes new smells and a heap of baby paraphernalia. Get your dog used to baby powder and other baby-related pongs, and make sure big items like cots, baby mats and strollers are out and about in the home before the baby actually arrives.
A quiet place: Pets should always have a quiet, safe place to go to whenever they need to rest. This will be especially important to them once the baby arrives and eventually begins to toddle about. As much as doggy may adore its new play mate, it will need a spot to head to to zone out in and to get away from the hustle and bustle that a kiddo brings. Indoor kennels or dog crates make perfect spaces for when pup needs some peace.
Pooches and prams: Unless you are going to be walking the dog entirely separately to the baby, it’s a good idea to have as many practice runs as possible when it comes to pushing a stroller alongside your dog on a leash. Build confidence with treats (theirs and yours!) and increase the length of the walk once you’re both relaxed. If you can get to grips with the baby/dog walking situation, this is a big woo hoo when it comes to getting into an exercise routine, and will prevent Fido from getting bored. Bored dogs are not fun. Important: Never, ever tie the leash to the pram!
Look at meeeee: If your dog has been your baby up until now, it may well be tough on its feelings to suddenly be usurped by a screaming ball of noise. It’s an excellent idea to plan a new routine as soon as possible. If you’re keen to keep your dog separated at certain times when you’re busy with the baby, try buying a stair gate and putting doggy behind it with some chewy treats for several minutes at a time before baby arrives. Increase the time your dog spends there so that it becomes a natural and positive thing. By the time that bundle of joy arrives, your fur kid will be used to being separated from you for short spells of time, and won’t get anxious about it.
Dinnertime: This is one of the riskiest areas when it comes to mixing dogs and children, and an otherwise placid pooch can turn into a snarling demon if its food is touched. Make sure your dog has a safe and quiet area to eat in, and keep babies, toddlers and kids away at feeding time. Now’s also the time to ensure your dog learns how to take treats from human fingers gently.
The toy box: Dog toys and baby toys are generally made of similar materials and more often than not make the same kinds of (annoying) noises. Dogs get confused about what toys they can and can’t play with, so start putting the dog toys away after you’re done playing with them so that it makes it easier for your dog to understand that play only happens when you bring their toys out. Also teach your dog to ‘leave’ before bubba’s arrival by using reward methods, so if pooch does get hold of baby’s fave cuddly, you’ll claim it back swiftly. Dog slobber on a baby’s toy is kinda grim (although we’ve never met a toddler who’s cared).
Health check: It goes without saying that fleas, worms and ticks are not something you want either for your dog or for your baby to be exposed to! Book an appointment with the vet for a full health check plus annual vaccinations two months before your due date.
Once your baby has moved in…
Why hello there: There’s no two ways about it, when you get back from the hospital your dog will be over the moon to see you. First off come in without the baby to say hello and to make a fuss of your fuzzy family member. Once things have calmed down, bring in baby and let the sniffing commence. Hot tip: when you are nursing baby, get someone else to hand doggy some special treats at the same time.
Good doggy: The key to a harmonious existence is positive and fun experiences for your pet. When Sparkles is behaving well around the baby, give a ton of praise and plenty of treats. The first interaction between human and hound should be with baby in the arms of mum and, after a little while, the likelihood is that the dog will lose interest after a good sniff. There should be lots of praise for pooch at this point.
Never turn your back: Even if your little one and your furry one have the best relationship in the world, never leave a dog unsupervised with a baby or toddler. Not even for a nanosecond. It’s just not worth the risk. Ever. If you need to step out of the room, then make sure you shut them away from each other with a stair gate.
And suddenly baby is a toddler: In the blink of a sleep deprived eye, your tiny tot will soon be tearing the place up as a busy toddler. This is when you need to be extra vigilant, and when that safe place for your dog is especially important – somewhere said toddler doesn’t have access to. The nicest dog in the world is not going to want to be pestered, pulled and endlessly annoyed: our kids have us parents to extend that courtesy to instead.
So there you have it. Your furry baby is ready to meet your not-so-furry baby. Let the chaos commence.
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