Baby on the way? Here’s what the books won’t tell you about creating a happy, harmonious relationship between your child and puppy from the start.
The bond between dogs and children can be unbreakable—But before they can form that forever friendship, babies and puppies need to get to know each other. With preparation and mutual respect, you can help pave a smooth path to companionship between your kid and your canine.
BEFORE BABY ARRIVES
Did you know you can start preparing your puppy for his new family member weeks before the baby arrives?
Be a leader
The nine months before your new baby is born is the perfect time to work out any kinks in your dog’s training. Consider hiring a trainer who can help you work out remaining behavioral issues. A new baby is chaotic enough—having a well-behaved dog will help ease the transition.
Get your dog used to new smells and sounds
When you bring home a new baby, your dog’s nose will know it first. Before the due date, start wearing baby powders and lotions to help your dog associate these smells with a familiar and safe human (that’s you!)
Your pup may also react to the sound of crying. Get him acclimated to these sounds by playing recordings of crying infants. Start playing the recordings quietly and increase the volume as your dog acclimates. Calmly reward him if he ignores the sound or looks curious.
The first day home is a critical milestone in the relationship between your dog and child.
Give A Sniff
Once baby is born, introduce her by scent first. Bring home something scented with the infant, like a blanket or onesie. Let your dog sniff while you hold the item. Give treats and praise to create a positive association.
Keep Calm, Carry On
When it’s finally time to introduce the baby, do so when your dog is calm, like right after a walk. One adult should be holding the baby while another adult allows the dog to sniff the baby at a respectful distance. Continue to create those positive associations with treats and praise.
Expect some growing pains in the first couple of weeks that you bring home your new addition. A baby inevitably takes up a lot of your time, and your dog may act needy, like any older sibling unaccustomed to competing for his parents’ attention. It’s important to try not to change your dog’s daily routine after baby comes home. Try to keep his feeding, walking and sleeping schedule the same whenever possible. This will give your adjusting pup one less thing to worry about.
Keep it positive
Find ways to create positive associations between your pup and baby. Playing with a favorite toy while the baby naps on your lap or simply spending time together can help your dog adjust.
Depending on the circumstances, all dogs have the capability to bite and a puppy may require even more supervision due to its activity level and playfulness. Babies and young children should always be supervised.
As both dog and child grow, continue to set boundaries with their interactions. Allow dogs and children to hang out for short, supervised periods, with some separation, i.e. keeping your baby in the playpen and your dog in the crate. Gradually let them spend more time together as they get used to each other.
GROWING UP TOGETHER
As your child grows, you’ll need to continue to teach her how to interact with her furry friend. A happy kid-canine relationship isn’t a one way street — dogs and children need mutual respect for each other.
Like learning to tie her shoes, the skills of caring for and respecting a pet can be taught.
Model The Basics
Once your child is old enough to start exploring the world around her, you can begin to teach her small lessons. Things like tail yanking, face poking, or food bowl stealing should be considered off limits. Don’t forget to provide your child with a primer on gentle petting.
Fostering a mutually respectful relationship between your dog and child takes patience, training, and love. But the bond you help establish will pay off for years to come—in the form of companionship, protection, smiles, and endless photo ops.