How to Introduce Your Dog to Your New Baby

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.

Homecoming time! Here's exactly what to do in order to introduce your baby to our dog safely—and happily:

Step 1: Greet your dog when you come home, but without the baby present. If necessary, put the baby down in her crib and confine the dog to a separate room before greeting your pup.

Step 2: Make sure your dog is calm and that the baby is quiet before initiating their introduction. It may take several hours before both your dog and your baby reach this state, so in the interim you can have Fido sniff more of the baby's things, which will continue to help him adjust to the newborn being in the house.

Step 3: When your dog and your baby are ready, have your partner put your dog on a leash for their first meeting, and keep the dog in a seated position.

Step 4: Bring your infant within two to three feet of your dog, which is just close enough for your dog to smell the baby. As long as your dog remains quiet and calm during this first interaction, he should be permitted to remain nearby but not have direct contact. Repeat this same introduction several times during the first day home: bring the baby within your dog's smelling range, and allow your dog to pick up the scent while remaining calm.

Step 5: Gradually increase the level of contact you allow between Fido and your infant, waiting until your dog has behaved consistently well during the first few meetings, and can still be verbally controlled, before trying an interaction without a leash.

A few more important do's and don'ts for these early days:

Don't be tempted to allow even the friendliest dog to lick or come in direct contact with your infant during the first few introductions. Injuries can happen quickly, so it's best to proceed with caution for the first few days.

Do let your dog wander freely while you are holding your baby, but he should never have unsupervised access to your newborn. Use a baby gate if necessary to help ensure that only you or your partner dictates when the dog can interact with the baby.

Don't restrict your dog's access to you or your spouse.

Do interact with your dog as much as possible. Your dog will become resentful if he feels a drop in the attention and interaction that he had received prior to the arrival of your new baby.

Do include your dog when mentioning your infant. You can tell him things like, "Let's go see the baby" as you walk to your newborn's room.

Do have patience with this process. Some dogs can adjust to infants withint a few days and some may take several weeks.

According to Dr. Ward, following these tips will help teach your dog that your newborn isn't a threat that will hinder your relationship, but, rather, a welcome addition that will enhance your bond. In time you'll have the sweet reward of watching the entire family growing and playing together!