Don’t believe the common misconception that if you’re bringing a new baby (or grandbaby) home, you’ll have to evaluate whether you want to keep your dog around. There’s really no reason to take your beloved pup to the shelter if you, or someone in your family, is expecting. Almost every dog can learn to get along with a new child, especially if you properly introduce your dog to the new tiny human in your household.
Below, check out the most important things you need to do to ensure that your dog hits it off with a new baby — including the one thing you absolutely must do to maximize your chances that everybody will get along happily and healthfully.
16. Start changing your dog’s routine — and the amount of attention he gets — before the baby arrives
A new baby famously disrupts everybody’s routine. That goes double for your dog who may not understand why things have suddenly changed. That being said, it’s a good idea to start changing up your dog’s routine a few months before the baby arrives.
Get your dog used to spending more time alone, so he doesn’t associate less attention from you with the baby’s arrival. By gradually reducing the amount of time you spend playing with your dog and paying attention to him, he’ll be prepared by the time the baby comes home.
15. Teach new commands before the baby’s birth
If your dog doesn’t know a command like “drop it” or “leave it,” that may be an important skill to add to his arsenal before a tiny baby comes home. (Just think about how you’ll need to respond if he rushes toward baby food that’s fallen on the floor or if he picks up a baby toy that you really don’t want all chewed up!) Another surprisingly useful command? “Go to your bed/crate.” No matter how intelligent your dog is, you’ll need to give him plenty of time to nail that new skill. That means starting to train months ahead of the baby’s arrival.
14. Get your dog used to the sounds that babies make
Dogs often react with curiosity to the sounds that a new baby makes. So the AKC recommends doing what you can to familiarize your dog with baby sounds before the baby arrives. You can bring home a baby doll that cries and moves, and carry it around. Or, you can just play a video (or audio track) with the sounds of infants crying to get the dog used to that new sound.
13. Take a moment to think about your dog’s exercise needs
Bringing home a new baby requires a big adjustment for everybody in your house. You’ll probably find yourself spending a lot less time sleeping, cooking fancy meals, or reading a book. However, you can’t easily halve the time you spend walking or getting exercise with your dog and expect him not to notice.
If you’re bringing home a new dog, choose a breed with more minimal exercise needs instead of one who will want to run a marathon. But if you already have a dog at home, make a plan for ensuring that he gets enough exercise once the baby comes home. A dog who required a lot of daily exercise before you had a baby will continue to need that exercise — even if you’re sleep-deprived and holding a baby 24/7.
12. Get your dog used to walking next to a stroller
Your dog will still need plenty of walks after the baby arrives, and chances are good that the baby will be accompanying you on those walks. It’s a good idea to get him used to walking next to a stroller (before you even put the baby in it). In fact, the AKC recommends going through the baby’s entire routine before he or she arrives — including walking with an empty stroller — to get your pup acclimated to the changes.
11. Establish rules for the nursery
The AKC recommends that you establish the rules of the nursery for your dog before the baby arrives. If you don’t want him in the room, put up a baby gate and begin teaching him what it means. Reward him each time he calmly stays outside of the room, but discourage him from whining or scratching at the gate. That way, he’ll feel prepared once the baby comes home and spends lots of time in the nursery.
10. Also accustom him to new sleeping arrangements
Does your dog typically sleep in bed with you or in a room that you won’t let him access once the baby comes home? Then you’ll need to get him used to those changes well before the baby’s arrival. You can use baby gates to keep your dog in the parts of the house where he’s allowed to roam. But while you’re thinking about which parts of the house your dog can hang out in, also make sure that he has a safe space to go if he wants to retreat from a crying baby. A crate or a bed in a quiet area of the home can go a long way toward making your dog feel comfortable.
9. Introduce your dog to the baby’s scent before he meets the baby
The Nest recommends that once the baby is born, you should take a blanket home from the hospital to give to your dog. That lets him familiarize himself with the baby’s scent before actually meeting the baby, which can make the introduction go a lot more smoothly. Every human has a unique smell that a dog needs to get used to. That goes double for babies, who can be perplexing to dogs for many legitimate reasons!
8. Plan for the baby’s arrival home
When you’re ready to head home from the hospital, make sure that everyone’s prepared for an excited dog at the door. The AKC notes that when Mom arrives home from the hospital, the dog will likely be very excited to see her and may jump. So it’s a good idea to have someone else carry the baby, just to ensure everybody’s safety. Mom can greet the dog affectionately to show that she missed him, too.
7. Keep your dog’s first interactions with the baby short and sweet
Once you finally bring the baby home, you’ll want to keep your dog’s interactions with him or her brief at first. The Nest advises that you allow the dog to see, but not touch, the baby. If your dog gets too excited, just calmly walk him out of the room. Reward him for calm behavior, but walk him out of the room if he whines, pulls, or, as The Nest puts it, “otherwise shows a lack of good manners.” The AKC reports that after your dog becomes accustomed to the sight, smell, and sound of the baby, you can allow the dog to sniff the baby while controlled on a leash. And then, after a few days, supervise him off the leash.
6. Tell your dog to sit each time you bring the baby into the room
Just as your dog may have needed to adjust to sleeping in a room separate from yours, he’ll also need to get used to not being the center of attention all the time. The Nest encourages new parents to tell the dog to sit each time they bring the baby into the room in the first few weeks, when everybody’s getting used to the new routine. Each time he complies, reward him with food or a toy. You can allow him to approach when you’re holding the baby. But make sure that you discourage him from climbing, jumping, or otherwise disrupting the baby.
5. Never leave the dog with the baby unattended
Even if you’re in the same room — and confident that your dog knows how to behave around the baby — you should never let your dog interact with the baby without your attention. Dogs don’t understand how delicate a baby is, so they can inadvertently hurt a child just by investigating the baby’s sounds or smells. No matter how great your dog is, he still doesn’t understand exactly what’s going on with this tiny human. Look out for everybody’s safety.
4. Don’t scold your dog for picking up something that belongs to the baby
While it may prove useful for your dog to know a command like “drop it,” the AKC advises that you should never scold your dog for picking up something that belongs to the baby. You don’t want him to associate the baby’s scent with anything negative. So if he picks up a baby toy, just replace it with one that belongs to the dog.
3. Make sure your dog still gets plenty of attention and exercise
One of the most important things you need to do to help your dog successfully acclimate? Ensure that your dog still gets plenty of attention and exercise. When the baby is sleeping, you’ll probably want to get some sleep yourself. But don’t forget that it’s also the best time to give your dog some attention. Play with him, cuddle with him, and otherwise demonstrate that you don’t love him any less just because you have a new baby. Also, make sure that you give him attention while the baby is around, too, so that he doesn’t think good things only happen when the baby’s in another room.
2. Realize that it all takes time
Scientists have established that pets improve your life in many ways. They decrease the chances that your child will develop anxiety, they teach kids about responsibility, and they teach everybody to act more kind and gentle. Plus, your dog will derive all the benefits of living with a loving family. Everybody benefits — something to keep in mind when your patience is wearing thin.
Both kids and dogs need to learn how to interact with one another. Just remember that everything takes time, and it’s going to take some patience to help your child and your dog coexist happily and healthfully.
1. Teach your dog that the baby is an awesome addition to your family
Finally, we’d argue that the most crucial step to helping your dog get along with a new baby is to teach your dog that the baby is a wonderful new addition to your family. The ASPCA recommends that when the baby is awake and active, you pay attention to the dog. Teach the dog that when the baby’s around, you’ll give him treats, petting, and time to play. You can also teach your dog that when the baby isn’t around, things get boring. Your dog can still spend time with you, but try to ignore him most of the time. That will help him learn to enjoy the periods of the day when the baby is active, so he’ll bond better with your new child or grandchild.
Read More: 18 of the Easiest Dog Breeds to Train