One of the most exciting times in life is bringing home a new baby to introduce to the family. This is usually a time of great celebration before the exhaustion of many sleepless nights begins. However, to a dog, the pack is changing and this can be a stressful time.
What A Newborn Can Mean To Your Dog
A new babies means new loud alarming sounds and new smells, some good and some really REALLY not good! Did you know your dog’s nose is between 10,000 and 100,000 times more powerful than a human nose? Your pup will be curious about all of it as well as how that sound and smell relate to events that follow like diaper changes or feedings.
Worse than the diaper smell, babies change the flow of the day. The eat, walk, play and, of course, sleep routine shifts in the household are hard to understand for a dog. Just like humans, dogs enjoy a daily routine to help them stay fit and enjoy the good side of our attention. Without an established routine, they can act out like children who do know they are hungry yet cannot feed themselves and have to resort to getting our attention in the not-so-good way. This can be especially hard on new parents who are overly tired.
The toughest part about a new baby from a dog’s point of view might just be the lack of one-on-one time as all that attention goes to this tiny human puppy thing that makes a lot of noise. We love our pups and they love us! However, it might be hard for them to see that same relationship is still in tact as they are often left to themselves while the baby takes over every waking moment of parents’ time during those first few months.
Many dogs are known to be great with all babies and children, and they can adapt to changes rapidly. That said, here are some ways to help your furry child adapt to a new baby in a safe way.
Pre-Baby Safety Tips
Before the baby is brought home, decide on boundaries for your dog. For example, if you think the nursery should be off limits for allergy and safety reasons, begin teaching your dog not to go into the nursery. If your dog has difficulty with training, try a baby gate at the doorway to the rooms where you want your child to experience a dog-free safe space. Remember to keep those gates as you may find you need to create a child-free safe space later on for the dog.
Also, it is important to try to anticipate how your dog will behave around small children. If you have a dog that has never been socialized with children, try taking your pet to the park daily on lead in the months leading up to the baby’s anticipated arrival. The children will enjoy petting your dog, and you can learn a great deal about how Fluffy adapts to loud squealy sounds, strange smells, and quick movements. This information will help you establish if safe spaces should be set up for your dog to retreat to when overly stimulated.
At The Hospital
The contractions are consistently coming closer together, and all that preparation with the breathing classes and “What To Expect” book reading will finally be put to the test. Your dog begins acting strangely because you are acting strangely. Fluffy begins to pace and retrieve gifts for you. You do not have time to waste on making sure your dog is comforted. He or she watches you leave without knowing what is going on. All your dog knows is the daily routine has been broken, and people are very nervous.
To combat your dog’s potential for mirroring heightened emotions, try to remain calm as much as possible by planning ahead. Make sure the hospital bags are packed and ready in advance. Treat your day as a normal day with the dog’s feeding and exercise routine by hiring a pet sitter or asking a friend to help.
After the baby is born, take a bonnet or burp cloth with the baby’s scent on it to the dog before bringing the new baby home. Dogs know us by scent. Introducing the smell of a newborn will help your pup become familiar with the baby’s scent around the house.
Introducing Your New Baby to Your Furry Baby
Now, with boundaries, daily park walks around children, a calmer well-planned departure, normal routines while you are away with a sitter, and the baby’s new scent at home, your dog should feel more comforted and relaxed for the new addition. If your dog is easily excited, make sure to walk in first to give your dog the needed greeting to help him or her get the wiggles out before the baby comes inside. Once the baby is in the home, use the knowledge you gained on the experimental walks to gauge the safety boundaries.
It may take some dogs a few months to get used to the new routine before they are ready to meet this tiny addition to the family up close. If your dog falls into this category, using the safe zones while keeping your dog’s attention needs met as well as feeding and walking routines will aid in this separation. The less anxious the dog is, the more accepting to the new smells, sounds and activities he or she will become.
For other dogs, they might be calm enough to smell and maybe try to gently lick the baby as a show of acceptance as soon as you walk indoors from the hospital. Please remember, however, that all dogs are still unpredictable. Even calm dogs rely on their instincts, and safety must come first.
Overall, bringing home a newborn is a wonderful experience. Your dog will adapt as you also do the same to the new sights, smells, sounds and routines. Getting to know your dog’s behavior around children and guests ahead of introducing the baby is as critical as staying calm and maintain routines. Allowing your dog the opportunity to become familiar with the new member of the family from a safe distance while still receiving praise and attention from you is a good way to prevent accidents and keep the peace.