Congratulations on welcoming home baby! Are you ready for your human baby and fur baby to meet for the first time? You love them both and want them to love each other!
The initial greeting sets the foundation for their relationship moving forward. It might not go as smoothly as you’re hoping (and don’t worry if it’s a disaster!). We received some great tips from Ashley of Meet Your Mutt for you to implement so your likelihood of success from the get-go will skyrocket.
- Introduce your baby’s scent to your dog in advance of bringing baby home. Ask your spouse, family member or friend to take babies hospital blanket or onesie to the location your dog is staying while you’re recovering. Don’t shove the item in your dog’s face, but simply put it on the couch or chair nearby for the duration of his stay so he becomes accustomed to it being in the environment.
- When you reunite with your dog after being separated, greet your dog first so the initial excitement fades prior to introducing baby. Their first meeting should be calm, structured and as uneventful as possible.
- After your dog has settled, ask someone to put your dog on leash and keep him close while you get the baby. When you enter the room with the baby for the first time, ensure the baby remains in your arms in a standing position so the dog doesn’t have access to them. While your handler keeps your dog on leash, walk around the room with the baby, ignoring your dog. After your dog has had the opportunity to see and smell the baby for 5-10 minutes, ask your handler to take your dog for a walk. When they return, continue about your regular routine as if nothing has changed. Move about the house as you always have, with the only difference being that you’re holding a newborn. Do not allow your dog to touch, lick or get within 2 feet initially.
- For the first few days at home, assuming you have a second set of hands, keep the dog on leash so he can be in the same room as the baby and get adjusted to her presence and new routine, still not allowing them to interact.
- After a few days, allow your dog to sniff the baby while controlled on a leash, but only for a few seconds at a time. Do this only while your dog is calm and relaxed. Pet him and give praise while he sniffs. Most dogs adapt easily (especially at this stage because baby is immobile), but always take precautions. Ensure the dog approaches you and the baby, not the other way around. If your dog is still uncomfortable with this new tiny human in the house, don’t force the introduction. Allow him to approach on his own terms.
- Once your dog is used to the sight and smell of your baby, allow him to sniff the baby off leash. Your dog may react differently if the baby suddenly screams, cries or kicks and misinterpret these behaviors as an invitation to play or as a warning. When interacting with the dog and baby, always keep baby elevated and make sure the adult is between them. Dog-adult-baby seating order.
- Give your dog plenty of attention when the baby is around. You want to create a strong positive association and avoid him learning that good things only occur when baby isn’t around.
- Don’t punish your dog for picking up dirty diapers, baby’s toys or clothing items. You don’t want the baby’s smell being associated with anything negative. Simply enforce a “Drop It” and replace the baby item with something your dog is permitted to chew on.
- Continue to reinforce the “safety zones” for both dog and baby. Don’t change the rules once you start to feel comfortable with them together in the same space. These boundaries must remain indefinitely.
- Babies develop at such a rapid pace! You may notice that your dog’s response to baby will change as she becomes more active, vocal and mobile. Continue to keep a close eye on your dog during these milestones. If you see your dog’s behavior changing, it’s a reminder to you to get on top of training, enforcing boundaries, maintaining a solid exercise routine and providing fun and rewarding activities/games.
Meet Your Mutt has a Pups n’ Tots program for parents and children with dogs! They offer a variety of training classes and workshops for families with children of all ages. They also offer Prenatal and Expectant Parents workshops to learn how to set your family up for success and the best methods of introducing your baby to your dog.