dog baby

By Jodi Hartley

In the last article, we discussed how to prepare your furry baby for a human baby’s pending arrival ( Next it’s time to think about how you’ll introduce your babies to each other and how to create a harmonious relationship as your baby grows.

The Introduction

Setting the stage for a positive, friendly introduction helps get the relationship between your dog and your infant off to a great start. When baby comes home, it’s best if all the humans (except mom) enter first and allow your dog to greet everyone and expend some initial energy from the excitement. Then dad or another family member can go hold baby for mom while mom comes in and greets Fido. Finally, mom can bring in the baby. It’s usually best to leash your dog for this greeting, and you want to have lots of treats ready. Everyone, especially mom, should be at ease and calm during introductions otherwise your dog will sense any nervousness and think that the baby is something worrisome. Have mom sit down with the baby and allow your dog to get as close as you feel comfortable, ask him to sit and let him have a sniff. Give him treats and praise for checking out the baby nicely. Try not to punish your dog during this time, as you want interactions with the baby to be positive. Keep the introduction quick and then go about normally.

Day-to-Day Life

You want your dog to feel happy and positive about this new member of the family so whenever baby is around, find ways to incorporate Fido and give him love and attention too. When you’re holding the baby, give him some treats and pet him gently while he sits next to you. If you’ve established a place for him in the baby’s room, give him a special treat like a Kong or bully stick to chew while you’re feeding the baby. As baby becomes more alert, make tummy time fun for the baby and for Fido by giving him some extra love while baby plays (and baby will love watching him!). When you walk the dog, take baby along in the stroller or in a wearable baby carrier. Do your best to keep to a routine and incorporate your dog as much as he’s comfortable into your activities throughout the day.

Baby Becomes Mobile

In a short matter of time your baby will become mobile by crawling and/or scooting. This is a key time for extra caution. These movements are pretty foreign to dogs who haven’t been around babies so Fido might be scared or overly curious. This also is a time when babies can get to your dog and start poking, pinching and pulling ears, tails and fur. Before baby crawls, you and the rest of the family can start crawling around and toward your dog. Give your dog some pets and make it fun. When baby is old enough, have someone hold baby on mom’s back while she crawls to Fido. Then when baby is crawling, it’s not such a foreign movement.

Babies love to touch and grab, and Fido has probably been a temptation so now that she can get to him, she’ll want to touch him all the time. You can prepare Fido for some of this by gently poking, pinching and pulling his fur and giving him a treat right after, gradually increasing the pressure over several weeks. Also, do your best to keep baby from doing any of these things to him. As your baby gets older, you can teach her to pet gently and how to be nice to dogs, but at the crawling stage, baby is too young to understand. It is good if you can associate some uncomfortable touching with something positive if and when it does happen, as even the most vigilant parents can’t always prevent it.

It’s also important to curb any resource guarding from your pet. If your dog growls or bites at someone coming near him when he’s eating or playing with a toy, check into positive training methods to help him associate people and kids touching his food and toys as something good.

Terrifying Toddlers

Once baby hits toddlerhood, she becomes a whole new creature! She’s walking, running, screeching, making sudden movements and playing with new toys with wheels that can run into and over Fido. Fortunately, the increase in activity from newborn to toddler happens gradually, giving your dog some time to adjust to each stage. But toddlerhood can be intimidating to some dogs, especially older dogs or those with medical issues such as blindness, deafness or painful conditions. It’s important for your dog to have a way and a place to escape your toddler and for your dog to know that it is okay to remove himself to have a break. It may be necessary to keep senior and medically-challenged dogs separated for everyone’s well being so long as you can spend some time each day with the dog when the child is sleeping or with someone else.

Toddlerhood is the time you can show your child how to pet gently and interact with your dog in a nice manner. If your dog is playful, show your toddler how to play some games with him like fetch or hide-and-seek. You can also start teaching your child some basic obedience commands that she can begin using with Fido.

Aggression and Other Issues

If despite your positive training methods, Fido is showing aggression or anxiety about your baby, or you just aren’t sure if you are on the right track as far as establishing a good relationship between the two, contact Club Canine at (828) 396-2597 for training and behavior advice.

Article References:

ASPCA: Introducing Your Dog to Your New Baby.

The Humane Society of the United States: Introducing Your Pet and New Baby.

ASPCA: Preparing Your Dog for Life with a Toddler