10 Tips for Introducing Your Dog to Your Baby

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Image via Jennifer Bruno

A crowded, co-slept slumber jolted to a halt as the whimpers of hunger suspended dreams of my fictitious bikini body sipping something colorful on a powdered, Bahamian beach.

Groggily lifting my “babies” from my bed, I waddled down the hall to fetch their breakfast.  My pregnant belly no longer allowed for bending, so instead I filled their bowls with pellets of lamb and liver goodness by squatting.  And grunting. (Eight months of pregnancy turned me into a grunter.)

My girls were grateful.  Their tails wagged as they crunched on their meal, making my 6 a.m. wake up call worth it.  

Our lives would be changing soon.  They sensed it.  

People said we’d barely remember to feed the dogs after we had the baby – let alone find time to walk them, hug them, and reassure their irreplaceable position in our expanding family, but my husband and I vehemently disagreed.  We were determined the addition of our baby would not result in a phase out of our four-legged children, so we felt an incredible responsibility to prepare our dogs to be the best “sisters” a baby could have.

People said we’d barely remember to feed the dogs after we had the baby – let alone find time to walk them, hug them, and reassure their irreplaceable position in our expanding family, but my husband and I vehemently disagreed.

After loads of research and advice from our most pet-loving parent friends, we are able to share our best tips for bringing your baby home from the hospital to welcoming, wagging tails, and for setting the stage for an unbreakable bond as all of your “children” grow.

{ MORE: Video: Introducing Baby To Your Pets }

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Image via Susan Johnson

Become the “Pack Leader”.  Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer, has made this method famous as a way to help your dogs understand their role in your home.  As a leader, you are calm – yet assertive – and give the dog the confidence, boundaries, and structure they desire.  If they understand you are the leader of the family before the new baby arrives, their level of aggression or anxiety towards new additions to the “pack” (or family) is likely to wane.  Let your dog know you are in control. This allows them to sit back, relax, and enjoy being your fun-loving pet.

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Image via Jennifer Bruno

Master the Leash.  The ASPCA recommends new parents involve their pets in the daily routines with the new baby.  Going for walks is a great way to accomplish this, so before your baby arrives make sure your dog is comfortable walking on a leash in a manner that will allow for adding a stroller to the mix.  If your dog excitedly pulls, work on getting them to heel.  I taught my dogs to “wait”.  They stop upon hearing that command and allow me to navigate the stroller around turns without getting it tangled in the leash.  While I didn’t practice with an empty stroller before my baby was born, I recommend doing this.  It’s far easier to concentrate on training your dog without a baby wailing from the stroller.

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Image via Liam and James Selph

Set Boundaries.  If you intend to create “off-limits” areas when the baby arrives, do it now.  Perhaps you don’t want the dog in the nursery or play area?  If this is the case, installing a baby gate can help create boundaries while still allowing your pet to observe the new activity.

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Image via Julie Mashaney

Introduce New Vocabulary.  In addition to the stroller commands, introduce your dog to the name of your baby before he arrives.  My dogs love stuffed animals, so I taught them which stuffed toys were theirs and which were for the baby.  Using commands like “leave it” or “not yours” helped establish their understanding of ownership.

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Image via Jennifer Bruno

Consider Easy Ways To Bond With All Your “Babies” At Once.  I purchased an inexpensive pet bed that fit next the the glider in the baby’s nursery.  Each time I nursed I invited our dogs into his room and dangled an arm over the glider to pet them while he ate.

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Image via Jennifer Bruno

Introduce the New Baby’s Smell.  Upon giving birth, send your partner or family member home with a blanket that smells like the baby.  Introduce your dog to the item while teaching them your baby’s name.  Let them smell the blanket while repeating the name.

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Image via Alexandria Mooney/Scooter the Dog

Expend Energy.  Before introducing your dog to the baby, have a friend or family member take them on a long walk.  They will be excited to see you after your hospital stay, so temper their enthusiasm by tiring them out.

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Image via Jennifer Bruno

Say Hello Before the Introduction.  Your dog has missed you.  Have someone else hold the baby while you greet your dog.  Love them.  Hug them.  Tell them you’ve missed them.  And then…

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Image via Jennifer Bruno

Put Your Best Foot Forward.  Once you are ready to formally introduce your baby, be calm.  Allow your pet to sniff the baby’s feet.  Keep them away from their face and hands at first, as jerky movements and strange noises may alarm your pet.  As your dog continues his inspection, reiterate his or her new vocabulary word by repeating the baby’s name.

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Image via Jennifer Bruno

Feed ‘Em.  Nothing reinforces good behavior for your pet like a treat.  Have plenty of their favorite treats on hand to encourage continued gentle, respectful interactions with your baby.  They may gain an extra pound or two in the first few weeks, but no worries – you’ve mastered the stroller/dog walk, remember?!?!

How did your pets respond to your new arrival? Share any of your own tips in the comments! 

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10 Tips for Introducing Your Dog to Your Baby

Jennifer Bruno is a credentialed trainer by day and a freelance writer and aspiring photographer by night. Raised in rural Kansas, Jen moved to sunny Florida after college where she met her husband, who married her despite hearing her sing Dixie Chicks karaoke. Shortly after saying “I do”, they moved to New York City to fulfill their dream of living amongst the bright lights and skyscrapers. They currently share their cramped apartment with two modelesque miniature dachshunds named Millie an ... More

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11 comments

  1. Thank you for posting. Very interesting article. I will definitely use these tips.

  2. Profile photo of Elysia Elysia says:

    Wonderful tips! Some of these I’m going to start doing as soon as possible to make the adjustment easier for my dog. Thank you for posting! very helpful

  3. Profile photo of Elysia Elysia says:

    Wonderful tips! Some of these I’m going to start doing as soon as possible to make the adjustment easier for my dog. Thank you for posting!

  4. Profile photo of bmattler92 bmattler92 says:

    these are great tips i used a few them when we brought my son home. sadly the dog still gets jealous but we are working on it.

  5. Profile photo of Elizabeth Elizabeth says:

    Great tips. I have 2 dogs and this will be a big change for all of us.

  6. Profile photo of nichole nichole says:

    these tips are all great ones! i used many of these ideas or similar, when i first introduced my dogs to my daughter for years ago. they had been used to a wild and crazy toddler/preschooler, but never been around a baby and they both flipped out when i was preggy, so we were careful because we didnt know how they would react with the baby. i also had them babygated out of my living room when the baby was in it at first for a day or two, and let my more submissive (and wary) dog meet baby first, while my wild and crazy guy watched so he could “see” how to behave with baby. they are both 70ish lbs, so my main concern was them getting a little to crazy at first and acidentally hurting the baby. and while my dogs schdual did change some, it started slowly doing that before baby was born, and i sure as can be never forgot to feed them or something! they just got adjusted times on things to fit the babys needs in as well.

  7. Profile photo of Morgan Morgan says:

    Thank you for these great tips. I have a dog and while our grand baby won’t be living with us I want to be sure she behaves around the baby. If you are on Facebook, a great page to follow is The Paw Man. 33 yrs of police dog military training – he’s awesome and gives great advice. A lot like Cesar Milon.
    And yeah for me,….. Morgan will be finding out the baby’s gender on MY birthday! 🙂 happy birthday to me!!!!!

  8. Profile photo of ImogenSteele ImogenSteele says:

    Interesting read. When I was pregnant with my first child, Sara I used a book called Tell Your Dog You’re Pregnant: An essential guide for dog owners who are expecting a baby. It was really helpful and came with a CD of sounds. Max (my fur child!) took some time to get used to the sounds but the book helped on how to do it. It gave me advice on what changes will occur and how to prepare my Max for them. It also talked about the causes for aggression and why it might occur and how to avoid it. It is written by a vet behaviorist too so it cover health issues as well. Maybe that will help someone else!

  9. Profile photo of gfunkified gfunkified says:

    These are really good tips! And I adore all of the pictures.

  10. Profile photo of sylvia sylvia says:

    Great tips, I am considering to bring a four legs friend home!

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