Bringing home a new baby is a very exciting time for the whole family. But if one of your family members is a puppy, it can be downright confusing and even scary for them. Not only is the newborn new and different, but now, you’re spending a lot more time with the baby, and not so much time with the pup.
All in all, it’s a lot to handle all at once. So, here are tips and insights for when you have both a puppy and a newborn at home.
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Prepare the puppy before the baby arrives
It’s safe to say that if someone brought home a new baby out of the blue, you’d be surprised. And that’s how it can be for your puppy, too. But luckily you have nine months to prepare your pet.
So, here are some steps you can take to get your puppy ready for the baby.
Schedule a veterinarian appointment
To make sure your dog is healthy and all of his vaccinations are up to date, visit your vet in the months leading up to your due date.
Schedule obedience classes
Consider a trainer or obedience classes to fix troublesome behavior before the baby arrives. Even if your puppy’s breed tends to be “good with kids”, they can still react badly depending on previous training and their temperament.
Change the puppies routine gradually
Dogs thrive on predictability and routine, and a newborn throws off routine. So, start to make changes to the puppy’s schedule and activities now rather than later. Here are some suggestions:
- Go on shorter walks
- Have other people walk your dog in case that happens once the baby arrives
- Go for walks with the stroller and your dog
- Consider earlier bedtimes
- Consider setting up a separate bed for your dog if he sleeps in your bedroom
- Keep food bowls off the ground
- Play gently with the puppy to encourage gentle play when the baby arrives
Along with these behavioral changes, you can also make changes to your home. This way, your puppy will be better adjusted when the baby is born.
Set up the baby’s crib, car seat, changing table, clothes, toys, and accessories
According to Janis Driscoll, Ph.D., an animal behaviorist at Animal Behavior Associates, “Let your dog sniff around the baby’s room and look at her things. By the time the baby comes home, your pet won’t be quite so curious about her belongings.”
Set up a resting area for your dog, and train him to go there. This way, when you need to be alone with the baby, your puppy can go to his own special place. Try to select an area of the home where he won’t be disturbed.
Support the puppy when the baby comes home
Once the baby’s born, it’s a huge adjustment for everyone at home, including your puppy. Here are ways to support him during the transition period.
Claim your baby’s scent
According to a dog trainer, Cesar Milan, before you bring home the baby, bring home something that has the baby’s scent, like a onesie, blanket or hat.
At first, just let the dog smell it from a distance. According to Milan, this communicates that this item is yours and that you’re giving the dog permission to smell it. By doing so, you communicate to your puppy that “This new item belongs to me, and you will need to follow my rules when around it.”
It’s a first and crucial step to cultivate respect for the new baby.
How to introduce the baby and the puppy
There are two ways to make this special introduction. What you choose depends on what you’re comfortable with, along with the temperament of your puppy.
Meet your puppy one-on-one
If your puppy is home when you arrive with the baby, ask your partner to hold the baby. This way, you can greet your puppy one-on-one. This is important since your dog misses you and still needs your love and attention.
Try a calming walk first
Before you arrive home with the baby, Milan suggests the dog be taken on a long walk. This way, he will be in a more calm and submissive state when you get home.
While the dog is out on the walk, you can come home with the baby. If you’ve already introduced the dog to the baby scent, it will be familiar to him, and it will be more natural for him to smell the baby.
Milan stresses that during this first introduction, you should be very calm and peaceful. He also suggests not allowing the puppy to sniff the baby too closely. Instead, keep a safe distance between the baby and puppy.
Over the days and weeks ahead, you can gradually allow them to get closer to each other.
How to prevent jumping
An excited, curious puppy will jump at the baby, but there are three ways to keep this from happening.
- Instill a no-begging policy before the baby is born. According to Jonathan Klein, founder of a training and boarding facility for dogs in Los Angeles, it’s important to teach your dog not to beg. This can help prevent him from jumping up at the baby.
- Use firm discipline. Animal behaviorist at the Animal Behavior Society, Robert DeFranco, says, “If your dog tends to jump up, say no firmly.” By giving less positive reinforcement, you discourage this behavior.
- Give your puppy less opportunity to act out. So, if he tends to get wound up when company visits, keep him in a separate room until they leave.
Dealing with puppy jealousy
Your puppy might not be a newborn baby, but he still needs and wants your love and affection. So, when he sees you giving so much attention to the newborn, it’s only natural that he’ll feel jealous. But here are some suggestions to support your puppy’s needs.
- Don’t force your dog to interact with the baby if he or she doesn’t want to.
- Ask a friend or family member to give your pet some love and affection.
- If your puppy acts out by peeing on baby things or throughout the house, remember your pet isn’t doing this to be “bad”. Instead, DeFranco reminds that “Animals communicate through the chemicals they produce in their bodies, namely urine or feces. Marking territory is a pet’s way of asserting himself.” So, while you shouldn’t accept this behavior, also try to consider what prompted this behavior and think about different steps you can take to keep it from happening again.
- While nursing or feeding your baby, the puppy should never sit on the couch with you. Being higher than the baby can instill a sense of aggression in a dog. But you can allow him to sit near you so he feels included. What’s more, you can give him a treat to encourage good behavior and help him see feeding as a positive time.
- Include your dog in your interactions with the baby. So, when you’re changing and feeding your baby, allow your puppy to sniff. You can also talk to your puppy to make him feel welcome.
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How to keep baby and puppy safe and happy
To finish off, here are some all important tips to consider when you have a newborn and a puppy together in the same house. These are crucial steps to take at first, but as your baby and puppy get to know each other better, you may find they’re no longer necessary.
- Keep dog toys and baby toys separate. If necessary, keep baby toys up high. If your puppy plays with a baby toy, discipline him and redirect him to one of his own toys. Remember to reward him for playing with his own toys when he does so.
- Instead of saying “No” every time your dog does something you don’t like, try to redirect his attention to something he would like instead.
- Never leave your baby alone with the dog. Unknowingly, babies can actually mimic prey behavior with their cute little sounds and actions, and this can trigger play aggression in your dog. Even worse, it can trigger defensive behavior, such as growling and nipping. If you do observe this type of behavior, say no and remove the dog from the room for up to 30 seconds. If your puppy behaves well, be sure to reinforce this with positive encouragement.
- Look out for both pacing and unusual eye contact. Both of these behaviors suggest the puppy isn’t comfortable with the newborn.
- Create spaces where your baby is safe, by closing doors and putting up gates. This way the baby can sleep or play without any puppy interaction.
- Keep your puppy calm by spraying the baby’s socks with something called ADAPTIL Happy Home on the Spot Spray. It’s a substance containing pheromones, which help to keep puppies calm. This ThunderEase Calming Spray for Dogs is another good option, too.
When you have a newborn and a puppy in the same house, you certainly have a big family to take care of. And these tips help you, your baby and puppy feel safe, happy and loved.