In most families, dogs are their “first child,” and the pets know that; however, the arrival of a child may significantly change the family setup. What could be exciting for you could be annoying and confusing to your dog. Your pet might have not seen a newborn before, and sudden introduction may prove to be a bad idea. Your dog may also wonder why the baby is taking all the attention from you.
With this environment, your dog may develop a cold relationship with your child, resulting in adverse effects, and in rare cases, the dog might injure your child.
Preparation During Pregnancy
Preparations for introducing your baby to the dog should start during the pregnancy stage. You should take the dog for training in basic aspects. If your dog has never taken a basic obedience class, it is important to consult a professional to assist in the training. You can take your pet in a public place such as a park where children are likely to be present and observe how it reacts when it sees a child; however, you should hold your dog at a safe distance. Walking with the future baby’s stroller can be a good idea to assess how your dog reacts. Steps should be taken to control inappropriate reactions when they are detected.
Before the Arrival of the Baby
When you arrive with your baby at home from the hospital, the dog should not be allowed to see him/her. The first step of the introduction is to bring something with the baby’s smell and allow the dog to sniff with clear rules to follow. The sniffing should be done when holding the item, and do not allow the dog to touch or come too close. Introduce your dog to the child’s room, but the child should not be in the room. Set an imaginary boundary where the dog is not allowed to cross. However, you can allow the dog to walk around the room sniffing some items under supervision and then ordered it to leave. This training sets the boundary to inform the dog that the items and the room belong to you, and your dog can only interact with them under your permission.
Meeting the Baby
Take your dog out for exercises or a long walk. Upon arrival, allow the dog to see the child at a safe distance. The dog will immediately recognize the scent of something new, or it could be familiar if the scent was introduced before. It is important to ensure that the dog is completely calm. The person holding the baby should also be calm. The dog should be allowed to come close to the child at a gradual pace until allowed to come at proximity, but all this should be done under strict supervision. This introduction aims at making the dog respect the child as one of the leaders in the house. During the exploratory stage, teach your child how to handle the dog. He/she should be taught that behaviors such as pulling the tail or scratching the dog’s face are inappropriate.
It is important to make an ideal introduction of your baby to the pet dog to establish a good relationship between the two. In rare cases where the dog fails to accept the child even with the help of a professional, find a new home for your dog to protect your baby.