Your dog is usually the center of your attention, but soon your canine companion will have to share all that love and affection with another. With the arrival of a new baby come new challenges for both you and your dog. A new baby shouldn't be forced into your dog's space. It is always recommended that you learn the basics of how to introduce your dog to your new baby properly so that potential problems can be averted.
Nine months and counting
The early steps for how to introduce your dog to your new baby start long before the new bundle of joy arrives. Your dog, at minimum, should have mastered the basics of obedience training. This includes simple commands of "sit," “stay" and "down." If new rules need to be put into place, these should be taught before bringing your baby home. Any unwanted habits should be stopped and corrected before you introduce your dog to your new baby.
A few weeks before the big arrival, you can practice training with a baby doll. Carry and hold the doll as you will your new baby. Teach your pet its boundaries so when your real baby comes home, your dog knows what to expect. Using a stand-in such as a doll will give you a better insight as to how your dog may react when you bring your infant home.
Do expect that your dog is going to want to investigate the new arrival. It is basic animal instinct to search out new scents in one's space. But if your dog has some basic training, you likely will be able to handle the situation much better than you would with an unruly dog.
Allow your dog to become accustomed to all the new baby things in the house. If your dog becomes familiar with the nursery, baby rattles and crib mobiles, he will be less likely to want to investigate these objects when baby comes home. If the nursery is to be off limits to your dog, now is the time to start training with these boundaries in mind.
When baby arrives
Your new baby has come into the world, and your dog waits patiently at home for you. There are still a few more tasks to be covered before the initial introduction between baby and dog. When packing your suitcase for the hospital, pack an extra baby blanket. Wrap your baby in the blanket so that your baby's scent is on the blanket. Have a family member take this blanket home to your dog so that your dog can start becoming acquainted with your infant's smell.
Bringing baby home
Before you arrive home, have a family member take your dog for a long walk. Once you are settled in the house with your new baby, the dog (with leash attached) can be brought in after you. Your dog will instantly recognize the new smell in the home. He will either want to investigate the scent or he may lose interest and just be excited to see you home again.
Learning how to introduce your dog to your new baby is only the beginning. Now that baby is home, you have to continue with reinforcing all the previous months of training. It's important to praise your dog for good behaviors when he is near your baby. This reinforces positive experiences with your baby rather than associating your baby with bad events. If your dog is seeking attention and comes closer to the baby than you like, you can use a distraction such as a new toy bought especially for the occasion.
Without proper introductions, your dog could experience jealousy or behavioral problems. Once you know how to introduce your dog to your new baby, you still need to keep some key tips in mind. No matter the breed of dog you own or how docile his temperament, all interactions between your dog and your baby should be supervised. And remember to enjoy some one-on-one time with your dog so that he always feels as though he is still part of the family -- just like your new baby.
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