Integrating your Family Dog and New Baby 101
Our Golden Retriever, Chevy, is a treasured member of our family (in case you couldn’t tell by the name of this website!). I know as we grow our family and bring human children into the equation they will take up a lot of our time and energy, and rightly so. But, as our first “baby,” it breaks my heart to think that Chevy might feel confused and neglected. I want to do my best to ensure that we are giving each of our children – both of the human and canine variety – the attention they need.
To prepare, I scoured the Internet for advice on how to best integrate Chevy and baby. I can’t wait watch them interact (and, if I'm being totally honest, to take sweet photos of the two together, like this and this). But I also know we have to be mindful of the needs and feelings of both Chevy and the baby to keep everyone safe and happy. I’m sure, for the most part, we’ll just do what feels natural, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared and aware what the experts have to say!
Start Prepping before the Baby’s Born
Pregnancy is the perfect time to reinstill good habits and manners in your dog. “Sit” and “stay” will help your dog control his impulses and wait calmly. “Leave it” and “drop it” will prove useful in teaching your dog to leave the baby’s belongings alone (just make sure the dog has plenty of toys of his own)! Finally, ensuring your dog knows how to greet people politely, without jumping, will be useful with all those visitors you’re sure to have in the early weeks. Reinforcing these basic commands beforehand will make things less hectic when baby arrives.
Introduce your Dog to the Baby’s Scent
Before bringing baby home, use an item, such as a blanket the baby has used in the hospital, to familiarize your dog with the baby’s scent. This will help the dog recognize and accept the new scent before the baby is physically brought into the mix.
Ensure a Controlled Introduction
Before introducing the dog to the new baby, take the dog on a nice, long walk to tire him out. Of course, this could be easier said than done when you’re just arriving home from the hospital, but if your spouse or a friend or family member can take on this task, it is beneficial.
Chances are, your dog missed you while you were away for a day or more giving birth, so you should enter the house first and say your usual hellos. Have your partner calmly and confidently hold the baby and introduce him or her to the dog one he’s settled down, letting the dog sniff gently. Slowly, let the dog get closer and closer, which teaches him to respect the baby as another pack leader.
Include your Dog in Baby-Related Activities
While the dog should learn to respect the baby and have his former rules continue to apply so that he continues to feel secure, he should also remain an integral part of the family. For example, let your dog sit nearby while you nurse the baby or change the baby’s diaper, and talk to them both throughout the process.
Maintain the Routine
One of the simplest and most effective ways to continue to make your dog feel important after bringing a new baby home is to maintain his routine, such as providing regular walks and consistent leadership. This one’s really important to me because my walks with Chevy are such a treasured part of my day. We may have another little one along for the ride, but I’m making it a priority to continue our daily walks.