Many couples pregnant with their first child already have babies – fur babies, that is. For many animal lovers, how and when they will introduce their new baby to their dog can prove to be extremely stressful, especially if they have experienced behavioral issues with their pet in the past. The great news is that there are some things dog owners can do to help prepare their fur babies to meet their human baby for the first time. And with nine months to prepare, they’re sure to be ready for this big change once baby finally arrives!
Address Any Behavioral Issues Before Baby Arrives: The last thing you want to do is just cross your fingers and hope for the best if you know your pet has unwanted habits or behavioral issues that might interfere with how they will react to your new baby. Make sure you address these bad behaviors sooner than later, and if you need to, bring in reinforcements. A good trainer can help you figure out the best approach to correcting any concerning behavior.
Establish Boundaries: Once your nursery is set up it is a good idea to establish it as off-limits for your pup. You want to make it clear that you decide when and how long he/she is allowed in the nursery. You can do this by first making the room completely off-limits to your pet and once that is established, you can bring your pet in for short periods of time. Only let your pet in the nursery when you are present, and you should always decide when it is time for your pet to exit the nursery.
Introduce the Baby’s Scent: Let them smell an item with your baby’s scent on it (a swaddle blanket, hat, clothing item) so that they can become familiar with it as soon as possible. Let them sleep with the item if they’d like!
Make the First Meeting a Success:
-A tired dog is a happy dog -- make sure your dog is well-exercised prior to the meeting
-Remember that dogs feed off your energy, so stay calm and try not to exude anxiousness or stress
-Establish your home as baby’s turf – have baby waiting inside and bring your dog in to them instead of the other way around
-No need to get baby and pup too close the first time around. Start with some distance and with time and practice they can get closer and closer.
Keep Routine: Instead of new toys or extra treats, what your pup really needs as he/she acclimates to this new change is to keep the routine they know and love. You can gradually make changes to the routine leading up to baby’s birth if necessary.
Use Positive Reinforcement: Reward the behavior you want to see more of and ignore the behavior you want to see less of. You can also use positive reinforcement to rewire how your dog feels about situations that might stress them out. For example, if you notice it gives your dog anxiety when your baby cries, consider giving him/her a treat every time the baby starts crying. This way your dog will soon start attributing the crying with a positive experience and is less likely to feel anxious about it.