Introducing the two great loves of your life—your dog and your newborn—should be fun, safe, and joyful for everyone involved. Here's how to do it right.
Having your first baby comes with many concerns and worries, and for many families that concern can be compounded if you already have a four-legged baby at home—especially if he is used to being the only apple of your eye. Here’s what to do and what not to do to ensure that your newborn’s homecoming gets off on the right foot—and paw.
During the last trimester of your pregnancy:
Don't wait until your baby's homecoming to try to adjust your dog's behavior. According to Ernie Ward, DVM, a practicing vet and author in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, once the baby is born it's too late. “Two to three months before the baby’s arrival is ample time to get things in order. Even with a normal, non-aggressive dog, these basic precautions should be taken before the baby is even brought home.”
Do make sure your dog can obey the following commands in a distracting environment: sit, down, and stay. This will help ensure your dog is easier to control around your baby.
Do start making the bed off limits to your dog if you plan to let the baby lay on your bed at all—even for a quick diaper change. It’s important to set this boundary and stick to it without any exceptions. "When it comes to pet training, consistency is key," says Dr. Ward.
Do not yell at your dog during training, or use your dog’s crate as a punishment tool.
Do make the training seem like a fun game. You may use food rewards like biscuits or carrots at first, but gradually substitute petting and praise for treats.
After the baby is born but before she comes home:
Do bring some infant’s clothing or blankets home from hospital to allow your dog to become familiar with the baby’s scent. Let him smell everything as much and as often as possible.