Dogs are part of your family, too—so when your family expands, it affects them as well.
Welcoming a new baby is an exciting and life-changing event for everyone involved. Your family is expanding! You’re responsible for new life! Sleep is but a distant memory! While you can generally wrap your head around what the arrival of this tiny little person entails, your dog might need some extra support adjusting to what his new normal looks like.
Depending on your situation, there are different ways to prepare your pup for what’s to come. If you or a partner are expecting the baby via pregnancy, chances are good that you’ve already noticed that your dog has picked up on the change. Some dogs seem especially attuned and exhibit new behaviors, such as acting unusually protective of their pregnant parent or becoming increasingly clingy.
If your pup doesn’t seem to notice anything different or if your baby is joining your family via adoption or surrogacy, there’s plenty you can do to help the situation.
Delay walks, move mealtime around, push playtime to a different time slot. Babies are notoriously terrible at following a strict schedule, so it’s best to get your dog used to this chaos well in advance.
Get Your Dog Used to the Gear
Babies come with a lot of stuff, all of which has the potential to overwhelm a dog. Get your fur-covered baby ready for what’s to come by setting up as soon as possible. Set up the baby’s room in advance and get let your dog sniff around to get used to the new stuff.
Pro tip: practice walking your dog with the stroller before the baby arrives. You might feel a bit odd, but you’ll thank yourself when you don’t have to worry about wrangling a squirrel-chaser and a newborn. Also be sure to use lots of treats to make it a positive experience.
Expose Your Dog to Other Babies
For some dogs, babies are an abstract concept. If you’ve got friends or family who have little humans in their lives, it’s a great idea to plan a meet-and-greet so that your pup can get acclimatized. It’s also a solid way to see how your dog might react to you interacting with a baby.
Ace The Intro
Congratulations! The baby’s here! Now for the moment of truth. It’s normal to be worried about making a good first impression—and while there are no guarantees, there are definitely ways to facilitate the start of a long, beautiful friendship between your fur and human children.
Know Your Dog
Let your dog dictate how you’ll make the first introduction. If you anticipate jealousy, it’s best to let the first meeting happen in a neutral way. Have someone else hold the baby so that you can cuddle your dog and help ease them into the new situation. Use calm, hushed voices, and start by introducing the baby’s smell via a blanket or clothing before the first one-on-one.
Don’t Push It
Even the friendliest dogs may feel a little put out by the new arrival. It can feel discouraging, especially when you anticipated an immediate connection, but it’s best not to force things. Focus on providing positive reinforcement to your pup when they’re around the baby so that they associate their new pack member with good things.
Share the Love
If you’re reading this, you’re probably pretty enamoured by your dog and don’t need to be told to spend more time with them. That said, babies take up a lot of time and energy—and even the most well-intentioned pet owners can find it hard to achieve balance. Just reminding yourself to check in with your pup can go a long way, as can taking a few moments for a snuggle session with just the two of you.
Don’t Be Afraid to Outsource
It takes a village, especially when you’re balancing multi-species parenting. Now’s the time to take your friend up on their offer to walk your dog, to let your neighbour schedule a dog park playdate, or to book an extra day of doggy daycare. You’ve got a lot on your plate, so let someone else do the heavy lifting.
Dogs are unpredictable and babies are unpredictable—which can make for some tricky situations. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so take the extra steps to keep everyone out of harm’s way. Don’t leave your baby and dog unattended and don’t assume you know how your dog will react.
Remember, the first few months of a baby’s life are an adjustment for everyone. Common sense, trusting your instincts, and accepting that there will be challenges can go a long way in easing the transition. It’s never too early to start teaching your child about respecting animals, and setting the tone sooner rather than later can help foster a really beautiful relationship.