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Introducing your dog to your new baby
Expecting a baby is a very exciting time, but can be daunting if it’s your first too. Your dog will be picking up on all the emotions that are whirling around, and it’s important to make sure everybody is prepared. Here are Dog Listener Lucy Proctor’s advice on making this transition as smooth as possible:
-Throughout your pregnancy start to wean your dog off you so they get used to less attention, rather than an abrupt stop which could lead to a negative association towards the baby.
-Start acting as though you already have your baby at home and show how you would want your dog to act. Praise and reward when your dog is calm.
-Make sure your dog knows their boundaries. You don’t need your dog’s face in the baby’s face when you’re feeding them — that’s too close for comfort.
-Ensure your dog knows where they are and aren’t allowed in the house and make sure where the baby sleeps is out of bounds.
-Give your dog a safe space to go to away from the baby — somewhere peaceful where they can retreat to and feel safe and secure.
-Bring some items of baby clothing home to get your dog used to the sights and smells, but don’t let them sniff close up, they can air scent from a distance. By doing this you are claiming the scent as yours, not theirs, and they have to respect that.
Once the baby is home:
-Make sure you are all calm when you walk through the door with your baby for the first time, and don’t excite the dog with your new arrival. If possible have a friend or family member take your dog for a walk before you return home so they are content, calm and relaxed when you arrive.
-Don’t allow your dog to introduce themself to the baby, ensure they remain at a safe and respectful distance. Ask your friend or family member to put your dog on the lead so they can’t jump up at you.
-Make all introductions calm and from a distance. Over time you can gradually bring them closer but only once the dog has started to ignore the baby and got the message this new person’s space needs to be respected. Think of it as like when the dog has lost interest (consistently) in wanting to meet your baby. This could take weeks or months — do not rush this process your dog does not need to be your baby’s best friend, they need to respect your baby. Distance equals respect in a dog’s world. When a dog comes up to a human calmly but uninvited and stops a foot or two away, that is respecting personal space. When that happens with you and your baby, then closer introductions can start to be made.
-Don’t forget to keep your dog’s routine the same as it always was, walks, feeding, nap time etc. Routine amongst all this is paramount for a stress-free dog.
-Once your baby is crawling, you must teach your child to respect the dog’s space too — no pulling on the fur, tail, ears etc. or allowing to crawl all over them.
-Never leave your child and dog together in a room unattended. Supervision by a responsible adult at all times should become second nature.
Get the help of a professional to help you if you feel out of your depth or overwhelmed by anything. Be kind to yourself, looking after a newborn is no mean feat!