Updated: Nov 7
By: Christen Reed, LMFT, Charleston Clinical Director
Bringing a new baby into the world is an incredibly joyous and life-altering event. It's a time of change, excitement, and a little bit (well…really a lot) of chaos. For many families, the dynamic is further enriched by the presence of a furry, four-legged baby – a beloved dog. While the idea of having a dog and a new baby might seem challenging at first, with some careful planning and a lot of love, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience.
It’s not uncommon at all for this topic to come up with pregnant clients. They often worry that they won’t have enough time for their pups anymore. Or that their dog will feel abandoned by them. The truth is, in the beginning it’s going to be hard to give them as much attention as you’d like. But keep in mind that doesn’t mean it will always be this way. You will once again fall into a rhythm that feels good for everyone…including your precious fur baby!
Here are some of the steps that my client’s and discuss when it comes to introducing your fur baby to your newborn:
1. Preparation is Key
Before your bundle of joy arrives, it's essential to prepare your dog for the new addition. Start with obedience training if your dog isn't already well-behaved. Have a discussion with your partner about what you’d like your dog to do and focus on shaping these behaviors. This will help establish boundaries and ensure safety.
Familiarize your dog with baby sounds, like crying or cooing, by playing audio recordings (search YouTube for desensitizing playlists, there are several great options). Gradually introduce baby-related items like strollers, cribs, and toys to help your dog acclimate to the new environment. Once your dog is becoming more comfortable with these things, ask any friends or family members with babies, if they’d be comfortable letting your dog be around their baby. Try and practice being around babies as much as possible so that you can set your fur baby up for success.
2. Maintain Routine
Dogs thrive on routine! So try to maintain their daily schedule as much as possible once the baby arrives. This consistency can help reduce stress and anxiety for your dog amidst the changes. Whether it's meal times, walks, or playtime, make an effort to keep things as predictable as possible.
3. Supervision is a Must
Never leave your dog and baby unsupervised, especially during the initial stages of their interaction. Even the most well-behaved dogs may need time to adjust to the new family member. Always keep a watchful eye on their interactions and be ready to intervene if necessary.
4. Positive Reinforcement
Reward your dog with treats and affection when they exhibit good behavior around the baby. This positive reinforcement can help your dog associate the baby with positive experiences. Conversely, avoid scolding or punishing your dog in the baby's presence, as this can create negative associations.
5. Gradual Introductions
When the baby arrives home, consider introducing your dog to the baby in a calm and controlled manner. Allow your dog to sniff the baby while you maintain a firm but gentle grip on the leash. Gradually increase the duration of these encounters as your dog becomes more comfortable.
Many trainers suggest having a friend or family member bring a blanket that smells like the baby back from the hospital before baby comes home to allow the dog to become familiar with the baby's scent.
Dogs are curious by nature and if yours is anything like mine, they are going to want to sniff the baby and give the baby kisses. While this can be super precious, baby brother or sister may become overstimulated by this. When this happens, gently redirect your dog and have them focus on something other than the baby.
6. Exercise and Playtime
Make sure your dog continues to receive adequate exercise and playtime. A tired dog is often a well-behaved dog. Engaging in physical activities can help release excess energy and reduce any potential stress or anxiety. When friends and family ask how they can support you, ask them to take the fur baby for a walk or to the dog park.
7. Seek Professional Help if Necessary
If your dog displays persistent signs of anxiety, aggression, or other concerning behavior around the baby, it's essential to seek help from a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. They can provide tailored guidance to address specific issues. Make sure to look for trainers that are relationship based and not fear based. This means they don’t use harsh techniques such as shock collars. These types of fear based methods often lead to anxiety for dogs which is counterproductive.
Welcoming a new baby into your home while having a dog can be such a fulfilling experience, as both can provide love, companionship, and countless precious moments. With the right preparation, patience, and ongoing effort, you can create a harmonious environment where your dog and baby can thrive together and become the sweetest, best of friends! Remember that every dog is unique, so adapt these tips to suit your dog's personality and needs. Ultimately, the journey of raising a child alongside your faithful furry companion can be an enriching and heartwarming adventure for your entire family.
If you find yourself in need of professional help, don't hesitate to reach out to us and schedule a session. Our dedicated team at Ready Nest Counseling is here to help you navigate life's challenges and transitions with care and compassion. Whether you're experiencing difficulties related to conception, pregnancy, postpartum, infertility, loss, parenting, or relationships our therapists are ready to support you. We offer both in-person and virtual therapy. Schedule a therapy session with us today and take the first step towards a healthier you. Ready Nest Counseling also offers support groups for new moms and those who have experienced pregnancy loss. Remember, you don't have to face it alone – we're here for you.