Bringing a new baby home is an exciting time, but can also be overwhelming – that’s before we even start thinking about how to integrate the new arrival with the family dog. We know this can be a stressful time and we’re here to help, with our top tips for successfully introducing and integrating dogs and babies.
Use boundaries such as baby gates for security – you will probably need this eventually anyway, and installing them now allows you to use them to keep your pup safely behind a barrier when needed without having to entirely shut them out of the room. It’s important we carefully manage dog and baby interactions and having established boundaries and barriers is the number one tool to do this.
Keep introductions between dog and baby brief to begin with – we don’t want the dog to get wound up, stressed out or over excited and keeping sessions together short and then giving them their space to decompress can be hugely beneficial in achieving this. Getting our dogs gradually used to the sights, smells and sounds that come with the new baby is much easier if we do this in a gradual, considerate way that isn’t overwhelming for them.
Plan when and how you will expose the dog to the baby, so you can ensure your dog has good experiences around the baby. No matter how hard we try, a new baby arriving is bound to cause some stress and disruption for our dogs just like it does for the rest of the household – to mitigate this, we need to avoid scolding our dog around the new addition. It can be easy to panic and get angry at our dogs if they jump up or get overexcited, but the last thing we want is to create negative associations. So, plan ahead, have additional people present and use barriers, leads and training you’ve done already to make your careful introductions as safe and smooth sailing as possible.
Use Your Training
We wrote recently about the training you can do to prepare your dog for your new arrival. Make use of this once baby has arrived to make life as easy and harmonious as you can – keep some pots of treats around so you can easily reward your pup for remembering his training and doing as you’ve asked around the baby. All that hard work you put in together before the baby arrived will pay off massively at this point, and help you to remember that you and your dog are still a team!
Something you can do from day one is scent swapping, having blankets which baby has been wrapped in or slept on and giving them to the dog so they can get used to the smells of your new family member. Dogs experience much of the world through their nose, so this is a great way to let them investigate the baby and get all that information in a safe way. This will make baby’s presence less exciting and make it easier for pup to manage themselves and keep out of baby’s space.