Introducing the Dog and the New baby

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Oct 2001

We will be expecting our first baby in a few short weeks and we are looking for advice on how to introduce or very active puppy/dog to our little one. Our puppy/dog is about 14 months and a Rot/lab mix he has a heart of gold and totally loving but right now is the center of our attention that will be changing dramatically come sept. when the baby arrives. Any ideas to ease the transition?? P.S. he also loves baby toys anything fuzzy that sweaks he loves- what to do???? thanks, Liz

Most A-to-Z books about dogs will give you good advice (check out Dogs for Dummies). The standard things they say are the following. Before the baby is born, take your puppy over to someone else who has a baby to get him used to a baby, especially the crying. When you're in the hospital, before the baby goes home, have your partner bring a blanket or article of clothing that the baby has been in home to the puppy and let him/her smell it. Get a tape of a baby crying and play it for the puppy ... a LOT. Once the baby comes home, be sure to give your puppy a lot of attention in front of the baby. But don't shy away from giving the baby attention, too. And, most importantly, make sure the baby is safe. If you don't have a crate, invest in one. Get out a book about crate-training your puppy. You'll need to make sure your puppy has a safe place to be away from the baby and that your baby has a safe no-dog area (like his/her nursery). Get your puppy trained in general. It's a lot easier when the dog understands basic commands. I have two dogs whom we treated as children; one of them was completely tied to me (still is, but that's another story). He was very jealous when we brought our newborn home. They are very well trained, but even so, the first day was awful. The dogs barked, and the baby cried, which made the dogs bark more, which made the baby cry more. I finally had to set some boundaries. I made the rocking chair a no-dog zone by rolling up a newspaper and banging it on my arm. This is a last-ditch device that I use sparingly. My dogs hate the sound. That allowed me to nurse the baby without a lot of fireworks. My dogs are crate-trained, and we sent them to their crates as needed. We put the baby on the floor only in his room, at first with no dogs. Other than that, we put him in a rocker or a carrier on top of things the dogs couldn't (or weren't allowed) to get to: the bed, a bench, the dinner table. And this is very important: We never ever left the baby alone with the dogs without one of us there. No matter how good-natured a dog is, he or she can react to sounds and surprise you by biting. My son is almost 2 now, and he is very good buddies with our female. We're still working on things with the male-the one who is imprinted on me. But everyone knows his/her boundaries. Good luck. Dogs are wonderful, and babies are, too.

Oh, and as far as the baby toys, you may well lose a few toys to the puppy. But if that's the biggest problem you face, you're home free. And don't be surprised if baby makes off with the dog toys. Our son loves the dogs' squeaky toys almost as much as his own toys. Gwynne

Coming home from the hospital after the baby was born, I came into the house without the baby; my husband stayed in the car with the baby for a couple of minutes while I greeted our 2 dogs. Then when he brought the baby in, our dogs were happy and curious to meet /smell this creature.

I also wondered how the dogs would distinguish between the dog toys and the baby toys, and we've had really good luck. When the baby was very small, the baby toys were not accessible to the dogs, but as he got a little older, I would give a firm No if the dogs started sniffing one of the baby toys, then I would give them one of their own toys. I didn't give the dogs fleece toys for a while to help lessen the confusion. Now the dogs are very clear about which toys are not for them, tho they are very tempted by nerf balls, so in general, we can't leave those out.

I found that dogs and babyhood were not problematic, tho I would recommend lots of off-leash walks for your dog to burn off some puppy energy. We had more challenges as our son became a toddler and started to be in the dogs' space more. One of our dogs is a bit bossy, so she had a harder time with dealing with a toddler; we had to watch them carefully to protect them from each other for a few months. Good luck and enjoy. Jennifer

One more idea: My sister has always had German Shepherds and she is brilliant with dog psychology. Each time she brought a new baby home for the first time (3 daughters and 3 different dogs) she would leave the baby in a car sear for a few seconds on the front porch for the dog to discover. Each of the dogs seemed to feel that it was somehow their baby because they discovered it and helped to bring it into the house. Each dog was incredibly devoted and protective of the girls, and never, ever aggressive. Seemed to work wonders to give them an active role in bringing the baby into the family. Nancy

To help introduce our baby to our three dogs, my husband brought home the little newborn T-shirts that the baby had worn at the hospital the day she was born and left them around the house so the dogs got use to the new scent. We never leave the baby alone with the dogs and for the first seven months they really couldn't have cared less about her. Now that she is walking, it is a new transition for the dogs. Just remember it is an ongoing adjustment for the dog as the baby develops. And don't push either party into a relationship they aren't ready for. Good Luck!

We have two 6-year old mutts, who were our only babies until we brought home our new daughter. Although they were obedience trained years ago, we have of course not kept it up nor did we have time to refresh before baby came. The best piece of advice that I got was to make sure to not exclude them from the room where the baby is. If you think about it, that's where the parents will be spending 99% of their time, so you can't leave the dogs out and expect them to be OK with it. What worked for us was to think about how we could include the dogs as much as possible, what things were definately not acceptable, and to be consistent. So for example, it was OK for the dogs to smell the baby, but NOT OK for them to lick the baby's face or push/step on her. I would try to pet the dogs while I was nursing or holding baby on my lap. The dogs will end up getting neglected, but try to do little things to show them that they're still part of the family. If you can manage it, spend a few minutes of quality time with your dog every day at a regular time.

If you have a pure-bred dog, you might have a general idea of how it will respond. But you still have to go by the individual personality/needs of the dog. One of our dogs was completely fine with the baby, the other was jealous (it was opposite of our predictions!). The jealous dog got over it after a month of our paying more (not less!) attention and gentle correction of bad behavior. The dog would act up while I was nursing, so we'd say no! to stop the behavior and then my husband would pet her to placate her jealous feelings. It only lasted a week or so. By 2 months, both dogs were fine. Try not to overreact, although it is hard when you are sleep-deprived. Our dogs are very gregarious and what really helped was to have a friend come by often and play with them a lot in the early days. Remember that the adjustment period will be over fast, even if it has rough spots (and the dogs will be very happy when baby starts feeding him/herself:). Marguerite