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How to Introduce Your Dog to Your Baby

introduce dog to baby




Written by:

Barbara Mighdoll

Expert reviewed by Dominika Knossalla-Pado, MA, Certified Dog Trainer

Bear, our Bernese Mountain dog, had a tough time adjusting when we welcomed Caden into our family. At first, he didn't show much interest and was a bit wary of approaching him. But as time passed, we noticed a change, and he started to develop a bit of separation anxiety with us. 

Turns out, Caden was pretty grabby, and Bear avoided him because he didn't like his fur being pulled. Despite our efforts to instruct and guide Caden, his young age made it difficult for him to grasp the concept. Looking back, it all makes sense – he's naturally curious and a hands-on kid who loves exploring through touch. No wonder he found Bear's fur super fascinating! As time passed, I can’t say their relationship has progressed much. Bear definitely is protective of him, but also scared of him, and Caden can still be a bit rough.

Luckily, Bear wasn’t as scared when we brought Willow home, and Willow was naturally very gentle with him. They have a much better relationship all things considered.

All of this is to share that introducing your dog to a new baby is a big step, one that requires patience, understanding, gentle guidance, and planning (add this to your third trimester checklist). This transition lays the foundation for a lifelong friendship between your child and your family pet. Knowing how to manage these first interactions can set the stage for a positive and safe relationship.

To help you on your dog parent to human parent journey, I'm turning to certified dog trainer, Dominika Knossalla-Pado, MA of @dogmeets_baby for expert insights on how to introduce your dog to your new baby.

How to Introduce Your Dog to Your Baby

Do you need to establish a new routine for your dog?

No. In fact, Dominika emphasizes the significance of preparation and training over everything else. Focus on the basics of obedience training, teaching boundaries, and preparing your dog for all things baby (baby sounds, baby toys, crib, etc.) Dominika’s Preparation Checklist includes a comprehensive list of things to consider when preparing your dog and home for the arrival of the new baby.  

Is a consistent schedule important?

Dominika explains that you should focus on making the transition easy, not harder. If sticking to a consistent daily schedule works best for you, go for it. If mixing things up a bit and creating a new schedule makes life easier, then that's the way to go. You don’t have to overhaul routines. Plan ahead and make adjustments to prepare for the change. Consider who will look after pooch during labor, when and where introductions should take place, and who will be the designated dog walker in the first few weeks after childbirth. 

One of the first things to plan is your dog’s sleeping arrangements. Since you can't keep an eye on your dog while you're sleeping, it's important to make sure dogs and babies are never left together unsupervised. Choose a cozy sleeping spot for your dog that's separate from where your baby sleeps. Dominika suggests, “I don't like loose dogs around the baby. If your dog can reach your child, it’s not safe.” 

Think about purchasing a baby gate to keep your dog in a different room, or an exercise pen if your dog prefers to sleep in your room while the baby shares your room. If your baby sleeps in a separate room, your dog can continue sleeping in your room without any restrictions. Anything new should be purchased in advance so that your dog has time to adjust to new sleeping arrangements or new furniture items. 

How to Introduce Your Dog to Your Baby

How to prepare your dog for a new baby

Introducing a new baby into a home with a dog requires thoughtful preparation. Dominika offers parents a comprehensive Preparation Checklist to help families plan and prepare. Preparing your dog for the arrival of a new baby involves a series of steps that helps your pet adjust to the imminent changes while maintaining a sense of security and belonging. 

Step 1: Familiarizing the dog with baby sounds and smells

One effective method is familiarizing your dog with baby sounds and smells. Start by playing recordings of baby noises at various times throughout the day. This can be anything from grunting to light or loud cries. Over time, gradually increase the volume to help your dog get used to these new sounds without becoming stressed or anxious. Another great way to introduce baby is to allow the dog to sniff the baby lotions or items that contain the baby's scent, like clothes or a burp cloth. This will help your dog become familiar with the baby's smell before the new addition arrives, creating a sense of care and control for your dog.

Step 2: Establish safety zones

Begin by designating specific spaces or quiet rooms where the dog can retreat to feel secure and undisturbed. Use baby gates or baby playpens to keep baby separate or a dog gate to restrict your dog’s access. It's helpful to introduce a comfortable crate or dog bed in the safe zone where your dog can enjoy quiet time. Encourage positive reinforcement with these zones by offering treats and toys in these areas, making them inviting spaces that your dog looks forward to spending time in. These measures not only ensure the baby's safety but also provide the dog with a stress-free haven, reducing the potential for anxiety or jealousy.

Step 3: Consider obedience training

Dominika recommends obedience training for all dogs. It's important to undergo training before having a baby since you may not have time afterwards (or you’ll be too sleep-deprived!). Instead of overwhelming the dog with numerous obedience cues, concentrate on a select few that are frequently used, such as “go to your bed” or “stay“.

If your dog tends to bark excessively or jumps a lot, Dominika suggests training to address these behaviors. Some dogs may bark more frequently, reflecting the specific traits they were selectively bred for, but there are ways to manage it. For example, using a white noise machine or applying window film can help reduce barking when your dog sees people outside the window. For dogs dealing with behavioral issues or separation anxiety, consider an obedience class that is focused on behavioral modification.

Step 4: Introduce your dog and newborn gradually

When introducing your dog to the newest family member, it's important to do so in a calm and controlled environment. One method for the first face-to-face introduction is to put your dog on a leash (as a precaution, and will only work if your dog is leash-trained) and allow your dog to observe the baby from a safe distance. Praise and treat your dog, reinforcing positive associations. Every dog reacts differently, so closely monitor your dog’s behavior and proceed gradually to ensure a safe and pleasant introduction. 

Step 5: Monitor your dog’s stress

Keeping an eye on your dog's stress levels means paying close attention to how they normally behave and noticing any changes. It all comes down to understanding your dog’s body language. Dominika says, “It's important to know what it looks like when they are happy, relaxed, or in distress.” Signs of stress can vary widely but may include excessive panting, yawning, nose or lip licks, bathroom accidents, or avoidance behaviors such as turning away from stressors or seeking isolation. Recognizing and addressing stress early on can prevent behavioral issues and improve your dog’s overall well-being.

How to Introduce Your Dog to Your Baby

Nurturing the dog and baby relationship

Nurturing a harmonious relationship between your dog and baby is an essential step for creating a safe and loving family environment. By laying a strong foundation of mutual respect and gentle curiosity, you can help cultivate a lasting friendship between your child and their furry sibling, benefiting their developmental journeys and emotional well-being, respectively. 

Should you allow your baby to pet your dog?

Teaching your baby to respect the dog starts with supervision and setting boundaries. Dominika explains that most dogs prefer not to be petted, kissed, or touched, so teaching your kids to interact with your dog in a non-physical way is key. Focus on non-physical interactions with plenty of distance, such as blowing kisses or waving bye-bye before leaving or “nite-nite” before bedtime. 

Dominika typically advises against petting dogs, and only suggest petting under specific circumstances such as:

  1. When your child is calm and connected with you.
  2. When you can pet the dog with your child.
  3. When your dog approaches you for attention, without the use of treats or food.
  4. Only after teaching your child the concept of ‘all animals get soft/gentle hands.’
  5. Immediately redirecting and blocking undesired behaviors such as hitting or pulling fur.

It's crucial to explain to your child that dogs have feelings too and need their space, especially during meals or when resting. Encourage your child to observe the dog's body language, recognize signs of happiness or discomfort, and always intervene if either the dog or baby seems stressed or uneasy. 

How to Introduce Your Dog to Your Baby

Resources to help with the transition

For more insights on dog training, visit Dog Meets Baby for online courses and consults. Some helpful resources courses to consider:

  1. First Meeting Course
  2. Preparation Course
  3. Pre-Mobile Baby Course
  4. Mobile Baby Course
  5. Free Toddlers & Dogs Guide
  6. Free Baby Sounds Library
How to Introduce Your Dog to Your Baby

Introducing your fur baby to your new baby is an exciting time. Be sure to get in lots of quality time with long walks before your due date (here are my favorite sneakers for pregnant swollen feet).


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