So you’re expecting? Congratulations! Now, aside from getting ready for a big life change, all you need to do is prepare your beloved dog for the new arrival.
Bringing Home Baby (to a House with Dogs)
Pets do best when things are introduced gradually, so start working with your dog long before the baby comes. The first thing you’ll want to do is get it used to you having something in your arms. Find a baby-sized object and wrap it in a blanket, then keep it in your lap when you sit on the couch or in your favorite chair. Ask your dog to sit and stay in the presence of “the bundle.” This is good practice for later.
You can also pretend to do baby-jobs, like diaper changing, in the dog’s presence, so they get used to what you’re doing.
If your dog is super-sensitive to sounds, try to find a place (spare room, outside yard, or large closet) where it can go to escape the sounds of crying. You might also get a recording a baby’s cry and play it, beginning with a low volume and increasing over time. The key is for your dog to learn that this sound is normal, not a cause for alarm.
After the Birth
If mother and baby need to spend some time at the hospital after the birth, have dad or another trusted person bring home a blanket or something that smells like the baby for the dog to examine. Let them sniff it thoroughly—this will make the baby seem like less of a stranger when it arrives. Put the blanket on the dog’s bed and encourage your pet to sleep on or with it.
If you’re worried about how your dog will act when it meets the baby, ask it to sit and stay and only go closer when it seems calm and in control. You may need to spend some time greeting your dog and letting it burn off its “greeting energy” before you introduce the baby. Be sure to give your pet extra attention during this time to keep it from feeling jealous or left out. For the introduction, cradle the baby in a blanket and let your dog smell the baby’s bottom end.
It’s smart to watch your dog carefully during the introduction. If your dog has been around small children before, you can rest assured that it understands the difference between a child and an adult and probably knows to be gentle with a baby. All the same, never leave an infant alone with any pet.
Your dog (or cat) may surprise you by peeing or pooping in your baby’s crib or on its clothes. This might seem like an act of anger or jealousy, but it isn’t. In the wild, dog parents mark around a new litter to cover the scent of the newborn (and defenseless) babies. If your pet is doing this, it’s probably feeling anxious about the family’s ability to defend the baby and keep things moving forward smoothly. Don’t punish your pet for this. They’re actually trying to help. Just make the bedding area off-limits and try to give your pet more attention or training, to reassure them that you’re in charge and everything’s going to be fine.