For many households, the “first child” is a puppy. This can be the start of a beautiful new friendship for your dog, but it can also be a stressful time of significant adjustment. Here are our recommendations for introducing a new baby brother or sister to your dog.
Make Sure Your Dog is Comfortable Around Others
Raising your dog to be comfortable with other people and pets is an excellent way to start. Your dog will then be more comfortable with new people and pets passing through your home and taking your attention. Your dog will realize that he or she is not always the star of the show. Obedience training, well-run and safe doggie daycare programs and dog parks, and just hanging out with your friends and neighbors are all excellent ways in which to develop your dog’s good manners and social skills.
Getting Your Dog Ready for a New Addition
How will your dog react to the newest member of the family? Dogs are often frightened by little people, but they are also naturally curious. Think about it from a dog’s perspective – they’re used to hanging around with full-sized people who generally don’t make much noise and get around on their own two feet. Then, all of a sudden, this tiny creature that is prone to making a lot of very loud noise and smelling very strange is in their space and taking the attention of their people. It can be overwhelming and confusing for your dog.
Before you bring home your dog’s new sibling, start by introducing your dog to the idea of a baby by carrying around a lifelike baby doll, talking to the doll, and showing the dog that the baby will be in a crib, carrying seat, and in your arms. You can also get recordings of babies (including loud screaming and crying) to play them while your dog is around. If your dog shows any curiosity towards the doll or the sounds, reward him or her with plenty of praise and even treats.
Before your baby comes home, you should also address any potentially dangerous behaviors like jumping, food or toy possessiveness, and romping around on furniture where the new baby might be resting. Your veterinarian or a professional trainer can suggest methods to curb these behaviors.
The Big Day
Your dog is going to be very curious and excited when you bring home your new addition. It will be a sensory overload for him – new smells, sounds, and changes in your behavior. Let your dog join the fun, but in a controlled way. Encourage him to smell and look at his new brother or sister. When he shows calm interest, tell your dog what a great job he’s doing and give him ample treats or a favorite toy as a reward.
During the entire process of introducing your children (regardless of species), be sure to tell your dog that he or she is doing a great job and show lots of love. That’s really what your dog wants more than anything else, and it will help him adjust to the happy additions to your family.
If your dog shows any signs of aggression, anxiety, or other undesirable behavior, address it right away. And again, your veterinarian or trainer can be a wonderful resource to help everyone adjust to the new and wonderful addition in your home.
For information about introducing new pets to your home, check out our article about multi-pet households.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
Interesting read. When I was pregnant with my first child, Sara I used a book called Tell Your Dog You're Pregnant: An essential guide for dog owners who are expecting a baby. It was really helpful and came with a CD of sounds. Max (my fur child!) took some time to get used to the sounds but the book helped on how to do it. It gave me advice on what changes will occur and how to prepare my Max for them. It also talked about the causes for aggression and why it might occur and how to avoid it. It is written by a vet behaviorist too so it cover health issues as well. Maybe that will help someone else!
This should be printed out and given at every dog parent's baby shower. Or better yet, at baby announcement time (tucked into a copy of, "Don't Lick the Dog" of course :-).
I wish more people would take the time to work with their dogs and their children. Humans assume that dogs and children are going to get along just fine. They allow their children to do abusive things to their dogs, thinking that it's cute. They must teach both how to interact with each other, starting at birth. I have seen too many dogs given up because unkind children have pushed the dog too far.
My sister has a 6 year old golden retriever and just gave birth to a new born. What she did to prepare the dog was to let him sniff things that were brought for the baby, and introduce stair gate and basket so he can get used it.
She also asked that if visitors want to come to give the dog attention before going to the baby. It seems to be working so far.
gunther and penelope's first kiss. their transition into one another's lives could not have gone any smoother.
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Prepare your home and furry friends early on for the arrival of a new family member.
This guide was originally published on May 30, 2019 in NYT Parenting.
The moment when parents bring a baby home is one of the great joys in a family’s life. But it can be a tricky time for the family pet. Introducing a new permanent fixture into a pet’s life — one who has an unfamiliar smell, makes erratic movements and emits squawking sounds — can make four-legged family members anxious. “Babies aren’t just stressful for parents, they are also very stressful for pets,” said Dr. Yaron Schmid, veterinarian and director of shelter medicine at the New York Humane Society.
Parents can find themselves caught between their pets — often their first “babies” — and their human babies. “We as parents have chosen this stressful event, but nobody else in the room did,” said Marjie Alonso, executive director of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and professional dog trainer. “What I’ve told parents for years is that everything you want to kiss may not want to kiss each other.”
Pets live in 84.6 million American households, according to a survey by the American Pet Products Association, so you’ve got plenty of company in introducing a new human to your cat, dog or pot-bellied pig. I spoke with a pediatrician, a veterinarian and an animal behaviorist for their takes on keeping everyone safe and happy.
There is no reason to get rid of a family pet to make room for a newborn if you follow a few simple guidelines to keep your baby safe.
Q. I have a golden retriever who's like a child to me. Now my mother is warning me that the dog won't adapt to our having a baby, and I'm wondering if I have to get rid of him. Is it safe to have a dog around a newborn?
A. Whether your family includes a golden retriever or a black cat, you certainly don't need to get rid of beloved pets to make room for baby. However, no matter how unlikely you think it is that your trusted pet would hurt your infant, keep them apart. Most pets wouldn't harm a baby intentionally, but why take the risk of an accidental injury? Don't leave your baby lying on a blanket on the floor unattended, for instance, and be sure not to shut your cat in the baby's room. Starting now, train your pets to stay out of the nursery and off the furniture.
You should be aware that household pets can communicate viruses, bacteria, and parasites. The common belief that a pet's mouth is cleaner than a human's is just a myth the reality is that a dog or cat bite can become infected quickly. Even minor nips or cat scratches need to be thoroughly cleansed with soap and water and possibly treated. Check with your pediatrician if your baby is bitten or scratched.
Your baby will probably be delighted by doggy and kitty kisses, but don't make that a habit. Cats and dogs often sniff or lick other animals, tasty tidbits in the neighbor's trash, and feces. It's also important to keep your pets free of fleas and ticks.
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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