Having a dog is a lot like having a child. You go to great lengths to care for your dog and you love them dearly. For many couples, the thought of introducing a child into their family dynamic comes with a few anxieties. If you are feeling stressed and asking yourself a lot of questions about this transition, prepare yourself for bringing home baby to meet your dog. Here are some tips for introducing your dog to a new baby.
Be Aware of Your Behaviour Your dog senses the energy you give off and changes in your behaviour. If you have noticed changes in how your dog is acting now that you are pregnant, it’s most likely because you’re acting different too. Dogs pick up on little things that we may not even realize we are doing. Pregnancy will not only cause changes in your physical body, but your mood, your emotions, and your energy. Think about all of the changes that your dog will be subject to living around over the next few years, without fully understanding everything that is happening. Your home will change – you might add new furniture and change a room. The members in your household will definitely change. There will be an entirely new person in the house. You and your spouse might become more stressed, energized, or give your dog less time and attention. It is so important that you not neglect your dog during the preparatory stages and during your pregnancy. This is your window of opportunity to prepare your dog for what’s to come. Remember to take time for your dog and feel comfortable talking to your dog. Even if they don’t understand the actual words, they will pick up on the energy you are giving off. If your dog senses a positive and calm energy in association with the changes in the air, and feels included in what’s happening, they will feel less riddled with anxiety and act less erratic. Train Your Dog If you haven’t already, take the time during your pregnancy to work with a professional or train your dog to stop any unwanted behaviours. You must establish yourself as the pack leader. Help your dog understand that he or she is only an additional member of your pack. Your child will be on the same level in your dog’s mind as they are – a pup. You are the one in charge of your dog and your pack. Your dog takes orders from you. This is the dynamic you need to have to ensure you can control your dog when they feel nervous or frustrated with your child. Bringing Home Baby You have prepared, you have trained your dog, your house is ready, you had the baby (unfortunately, these steps are easier said than done), and you are ready to come home. Before you do, have your spouse, a relative, or a close friend take an item with the baby’s scent home and let your dog get acquainted with your child before you arrive. Have this person also take your dog outside and run around, play, go for a walk, and get them completely exhausted. There will be a lot of excitement surrounding your arrival. You want to make sure they are as calm as possible. Mother and father, or the pack leaders, should be with the baby at the time of the introduction. The dog should not be allowed too close, do not let them sniff your baby. The first introduction is simply a way to let your dog know that there is someone new and they are included. Don’t ignore your dog during this process either. Let them know they are still an important part of the pack. Make the nursery off-limits to your dog. They should understand that there is a boundary where the child is that they are not welcome. Having a specified area in the house makes this easy for an animal to understand. This will help them adjust and learn how to act during confusing firsts. For example: when the baby cries and you take the baby into the nursery to soothe them, they do not need to help you or feel concerned. You have taken the baby and are taking care of the issue in your special space. During the time while they are adjusting to having a new person around try to give your dog some additional affection. Little things like new toys is all it takes for a dog to feel they are not forgotten and still loved. Don’t worry – it shouldn’t take a significant amount of the time you are running short on – small gestures are enough. One final suggestion for raising a child with a dog. Don’t forget to teach your children as they grow up how to properly care for your dog. Children don’t fully understand how to play with dogs or care for them. Teach them to be gentle and kind to your dog and give gentle loves and affection – your dog will more than return the favour and be gentle in return. Enjoy the process of growing your family and good luck. For more tips in caring for your dog, be sure to check out our blog, or contact our helpful veterinary staff at Bellamy-Lawrence Animal Hospital to set up an appointment today!