If you are parents anticipating the arrival of a newborn baby, but you’re also a dog parent, you must think about preparing your dogs for a new baby. Having your dog feel comfortable with a new baby's presence is not about luck but planning. With ample preparation, you can potentially avoid aggressive, territorial behavior and help your dog get along with your new baby.
With your help preparing your dogs for a new baby, your dog will feel less confused about any changes, and less anxious about being around a new addition to the family.
The AHS or Animal Humane Society recommends getting your four-legged fur babies ready even before the human baby’s birth. According to their experts, “Taking time to prepare your family pets for your new baby’s arrival and properly introducing them once your baby is born will help to make this transition peaceful for everyone involved.”
Why Preparing Your Dogs for a New Baby Should Be a Priority
It can be bothersome for unsuspecting dogs to suddenly get a new, unwanted, tiny little housemate overnight who they weren’t expecting.
If you’re expecting a new child, don’t forget your fur baby, and always do your best to make the pooch feel part of the family. Some dogs have difficulties when a new baby arrives because it could feel like a dramatic experience, with loud sounds, unusual smells, and new sights invading their space.
A new baby also equates to more visitors encroaching on their territory. Studies emphasize that it is natural for dogs to defend their territory. Dogs tend to feel protective of their space and prefer routine so this type of drastic change in lifestyle can make them feel unsettled, especially if they’re not prepped for it.
Social anxiety is something that some dogs experience when one’s home has lots of unexpected guests due to baby excitement.
A new baby also requires a lot of attention from you, so that could mean your dog will likely receive less from you. This could equate to shorter walks and lesser play time than they’re used to.
As you tend to the baby, you may also leave your dog a little longer than before and bar entry for certain rooms. With all these new changes, it’s easy to see why your beloved furbaby may feel jealous and unsettled once the new baby comes. However, preparing your dogs for a new baby could help mitigate future problems.
Below, you’ll discover ways to help your dog adjust before the baby arrives. With plenty of time, you can ensure your dog is ready for a new family life experience with a baby on board.
Make a Game Plan for an Easy Transition
If you want to succeed in preparing your dogs for a new baby, you have to start with a plan. There is no absolute right or wrong way because it also depends on your dog's breed, the dog’s personality, and your existing family dynamics. It may be helpful to take a CirclePaw DNA Test for Dogs, which is an advanced, perfectly safe, and non-invasive DNA test for dogs that can be done from home with a simple cheek swab. Test results provide 200+ DNA insights on your pet’s genetic health risks and traits. The results could help you prepare your dog with training activities that suit its unique temperament.
When preparing your dogs for a new baby, it’s important to remember that the sooner you start, the less pressure it would be for everyone. That’s because you give your dogs ample time to adjust and feel comfortable. You can introduce changes at your dog’s pace, which is vital for making them feel confident. It could also mean a faster transition that’s easier for everyone.
According to AKC or American Kennel Club, “Dogs can be eager learners, but they can also exhibit jealousy because they are no longer the center of attention.” Because of this, it would be helpful to begin any changes during your pregnancy before the little human comes. In that way, they won’t associate the changes with the baby. Think about the situations your pooch will need to get used to and gradually introduce them. It would help to make a to-do list so you don’t leave anything out.
Show Your Dogs You’re Interacting with a Baby
An effective way in preparing your dogs for a new baby is for them to see you holding and talking to one. For safety reasons, this should be a lifelike baby doll, especially if they have never seen you hold a child. If your dog jumps on you while you’re holding the doll, correct the behavior and teach them to keep their paws on the ground.
You can start training by dropping treats on the ground when you pick up the doll. Reward the behavior if they consistently keep their paws on the ground as you pick up the toy. Eventually, with sufficient training, they would learn that it’s a good choice to put their noses and paws down when they see you pick up the doll.
Set Up Baby’s Furniture and Toys
Don’t wait for the baby’s birth before setting up things around the house. Preparing your dogs for a new baby means gradually installing baby gear in your home. They could include the following:
- High chair
- Baby gym
- Mobiles that move around
Setting up the stuff early will give your dogs time to sniff the things and get used to them. Allow your dogs to approach the stuff and investigate things at their own pace. This way, when you set up boundaries, they won’t be overly curious anymore.
Introduce the Scent of a Baby
Dogs have a keen sense of smell that’s why this step is very important. When preparing your dogs for a new baby, introduce them to baby smells. Request friends with babies for old, unwashed baby blankets and clothes. You can even ask for a dirty diaper or two. It may sound gross, but you’ll appreciate getting a head start once the baby arrives, so your dog will resist tinkering with the diaper genie (specialized diaper trash bin).
Gradually introduce these scents to your dog to avoid making them feel overwhelmed. You can build positive associations by giving treats when introducing new things. And when your new baby comes, you can ask your spouse to bring the baby’s used blanket while you’re still in the hospital. Doing this will help your dog become more familiar with the child before their first physical introduction.
Play Baby Sounds for Your Dog
Although baby sounds may seem endearing to humans, they can be very piercing for a canine’s sensitive ears. Hence, preparing your dogs for a new baby means introducing them to a collection of baby sounds, including jarring and high-pitched cries. Be prepared for these sounds to agitate your dog if they're not used to it. The reason for this audio training is to help your dogs become more familiar with the sounds that they’ll hear when the baby comes.
To help you out, prepare a playlist of baby sound bytes found online. When introducing new sounds, start with low volume. Opt for pleasant noises first such as gurgling or cooing sounds. Gradually increase the volume over the next few weeks. Eventually, you can start introducing the high-pitch cries and toddler temper tantrums sounds later.
Create New Pet Routines
Any new parent will tell you that things change once the baby comes. With a new baby, walk and play time durations with your dogs will likely be reduced. There’s a big probability that you will also do shorter routes if you’re used to walking the dogs. You may also need to delegate dog duties such as grooming and feeding to your spouse or housekeeper.
When you’re preparing your dogs for a new baby, you must make gradual changes in the dog’s schedule as soon as you can. Moreover, begin introducing new people and care routines before the baby is born. You don’t want these changes to make your dogs feel left out. Moreover, doing all of these modifications ahead means your dogs won’t associate the changes with your new baby and prevent resentment.
For a smoother transition, you can roleplay like bringing an empty stroller to the park or a walk around the block with the dog. In this way, you can anticipate challenges without your newborn. If it’s too hard for you, you could think about hiring a dog walker, too. Planning for these things are part of responsible pet ownership.
Set New Boundaries and Rules
Consider preparing your dog for a new baby by putting up new rules and boundaries. If you do it when the baby comes, your pet may associate it with the child and hold a grudge. It’s also easier to set up new routines when you’re not sleep-deprived with a newborn. Here’s a list of changes that you may be considering:
- You may not want your dogs sleeping in the room anymore if you’re keeping a bassinet close by during the first months.
- The baby’s room may be off-limits for your dogs now.
- Your dogs will no longer be allowed to jump on the furniture or bed when the baby is born.
- The dogs’ paws must be on the floor all the time because you don’t want them jumping on you while you’re holding the baby.
- Your dogs may deal with new faces like the nanny or visitors coming in, so you may have to get them used to being on the other side of a baby gate or in a crate.
If you have any drastic changes to make, start teaching your dogs as soon as possible. Whether it’s sleeping arrangements or things that are off-limits, enforce those changes right away. If you’re hiring a nanny for the baby, have your dogs meet the new person before the baby comes.
Consider Obedience Classes for Temperamental Dogs
If your dog still has some obedience and issues with boundaries, it would be a good idea to enroll in obedience classes. Some dog breeds are unfortunately naturally stubborn, so you may need professional assistance. When formal training is done, you could practice what your dog learns at home for continuity and stay consistent with enforcement.
Use treats to reward your dog. The time and effort you invest in this process will pay off when the baby arrives. You can focus your attention on the baby while feeling confident because you know in your heart that you taught your dogs' new skills and habits to make them feel at ease.
Introducing the Baby to Your Dogs
All your efforts in preparing your dogs for a new baby will pay off upon the birth of your child. When you bring home the baby for the first time, greet your pets as you normally do. It would be a good idea for someone else to hold the baby so you can reassure your dogs and calm their nerves.
When the atmosphere is relaxed, officially introduce your dogs to the newest family member. Do this with caution and care, having the newborn in your arms at all times and having the dogs on a leash during the introduction. It would be helpful to have another family member present in this initial meeting to handle the dogs. If your pet appears anxious, give them space. Then try again after a few days.
No matter how much you love your dogs, it’s never a good idea to leave your young child unattended with your pets to avoid accidents. Supervise all interactions, so you can intervene if necessary.
You could allow your dog to cuddle you on the couch while you’re holding your baby, if they seem to have acclimated to the change and are acting calm. This physical closeness between the three of you (or more if your other kids or partner is with you on the couch) as a family bonding practice could help your dog get used to the idea that you’re all a family.
Caring for a newborn and furbabies may be overwhelming, especially in the first few months. But with patience and preparation, you’ll find room in your home and heart for all your babies, both human and the furry kind.
- Preparing your pet for a new baby (Animal Humane Society) https://www.animalhumanesociety.org/resource/preparing-your-pet-new-baby
- Review on Selected Aggression Causes and the Role of Neurocognitive Science in the Diagnosis (Aleksandra Kleszcz) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8833765/
- Introducing your dog to your new baby (Denise Fliam) https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/introducing-dog-to-baby/