For many couples, getting a dog is the first step to becoming ‘serious’. It’s your first baby, if you will. And dogs love that. They thrive on being the centre of attention, lapping up all the love you dish out, which is great when it’s just the three of you, but what happens when a cute but screaming newborn baby arrives? Well, it can mess with their routine, make them feel less important and leave them feeling confused. So, what is the best way to introduce dogs to your new obsession? These tried and tested tips will help make the introductions a little smoother.
Dogs and Pregnancy
First up, that burning question: can dogs tell when you’re pregnant? The jury is out on this one but there are two certainties: studies have shown that some dogs can pick up on hormonal changes, some cancers, changes in body and sweat smells, so in theory, it’s possible they could also sense you’re pregnant. Secondly, dogs are masters of routine, theirs and yours. So, if you suddenly change your daily schedule, perhaps by going out less or adjusting certain habits, your doggo will definitely notice. Some dogs will become more protective, while others may become cheekier and more disruptive.
Before your baby arrives
As you get closer to your due date, train your dog not to jump up on people, and if possible, not to bark inside. Some experts also believe playing audio of a baby crying in the weeks up to the birth can help acclimatize them to the sounds they’ll be hearing in those first few, confusing weeks. And if you’re planning to use a dog walker or dog sitter when your new human arrives, start that process a month or two before your due date so your pup is familiar with them. It will help the transition.
In the days before your newborn arrives home, introduce your dog to the bigger items that will be invading their territory, such as prams and bassinets. Some dogs can be afraid of the way a pram rolls, at first, so even though you might feel a little silly, try taking the pram on walks with you before the birth, so your firstborn can get used to it. This is also the time to start to set your boundaries. It’s a good idea to make the nursery off-limits for dogs so they know that it’s not somewhere they are permitted to be.
Bringing your baby home from hospital
While you might be lost in the fun (read: confusion and panic) of those first few days with your newborn, you might not have much headspace for your fur baby back at home, but a little planning can go a long way. First, get someone to bring home a muslin wrap or onesie with the scent of your newborn on it. Failing that, grab a blanket and dab on a little of the body lotion you plan to use on your baby, and allow your dog to smell it.
Introducing your dog to your baby
Congratulations! You’re now the proud owner of a newborn howler and a furry (probably slightly jealous) pup. Again, your dog may not be the first thing on your mind, on that nervous drive home from hospital, but it pays to think ahead. It helps if either you or your partner can go inside first to greet the dog, while the other waits outside with the baby. Then swap places, so your pup gets some attention from both adults before you bring in the new arrival.
Some experts believe the best way to introduce dogs and babies is to present the tiny little feet of your newborn to the dog to sniff. Then after a few seconds separate the two and give your dog a treat. Continue until your dog’s interest wanes, keeping your bub’s face well and truly away from your pup’s inquisitive sniffer.
Now is the time to set more of those boundaries in place; things like no jumping on mum when she’s feeding, no barking in the house, no getting close to baby’s face. And for you, now is the time to set in place some household rules. These should include things like never leaving the baby and doggo alone together, this is a good rule especially later on when your tiny human blob has turned into an unpredictable toddler. Other rules to consider are not getting your dog too excited indoors (no ball games or fetch, for example). Lastly, experts agree that giving attention to your pup when your baby is awake is more beneficial than only doing it when they’re sleeping, which may lead to feelings of jealousy in those curious, furry little minds. Because when it comes down to it, your dog is a part of the family, and they deserve your help in getting used to this strange and wonderful transition.