How to Introduce Your New Baby to Your Dog
Companion animals are part of the family. You may have spent years of your life with them sleeping in your bed, showering them in affection, and buying them special peanut butter treats.
Then all of a sudden, your attention is taken entirely by a new baby. A beautiful, miraculous child! Some dogs will agree and some won't.
With a newborn, the dog's comfort is often more of a concern. A baby only a few days or weeks (or hours) old will not have much awareness of what's going on. Many parents are very worried (rightfully) about integrating these members of their family.
I have not had this experience before. So, to add to my research, I consulted some experts I know, my sister & brother-in-law whose toddler and dog are the best of friends. When Carl the pug first met Carrie, he sniffed her and then licked her feet and legs. This was a huge success for a dog who is a bit protective of his home and family.
Here's a few important things to remember for the introduction of your best friend to your baby.
Know your dog's unique personality.
Every dog is different, just like humans. If you live with a dog, you know this! They have their own likes, dislikes, and "pet" peeves (I couldn't resist!).
For example, one of my dogs scares very easily at quick movements. If she's scared, she tries to escape the situation any way she can. Knowing this about her, I always give her an exit.
Things to think about: are there any parts of your dog's body that they don't like being touched? Do they have a special spot in the house that's "theirs" where they can go for space? Are they usually interested in new people and animals? Do they show any signs of resource aggression?
Use your knowledge of your dog's personality to create an environment for the first meeting where they will be comfortable.
Make the first meeting a positive experience.
You can use all the usual tricks here - praise your dog when they act appropriately around the baby, and give them a few treats in the presence of the baby.
Make sure to show your dog physical affection so they see that you haven't forgotten about them and you are still excited to see them.
A great tip from the ASPCA is to allow others to enter the house (your partner, parents, or friends) so the dog can express some of their excitement. That way, the dog won't get in trouble for showing their positive emotions. Let them be happy that you are finally home (or they are finally home if they were at the sitter's).
Once they have calmed down a little, you and the baby can enter the room and say hello.
It may take some time. This is a major transition for your whole family, including any dogs. If your dog isn't interested, don't force it.
At the same time if your dog seems like they need a lot of reassurance, remember this is a transition time and it won't last forever.
Model appropriate behaviour (for all species!).
"Use your sensitivity and empathy for both baby and dog. A big one is seeing you be happy and loving with the dog and modelling calmness." - My sister is so wise!
Dogs are extremely emotionally intelligent. Your dog will sense your emotional state and react to it, likely mimicking it. If you're nervous, your dog will feel this too and wonder what they should be nervous about. Model a relaxed, welcoming mindset for the first meeting.
As your child gets older, you can model appropriate behaviour for them with your dog, showing them how to be loving and empathetic to the dog's needs.