If you’re like a lot of dog owners, your dog was your original baby. Now you are expecting an actual baby or have one already, or maybe you are thinking about bringing a dog home. There are lots of great reasons for kids to have dogs in their lives but it’s really important to start things off the right way. Here we discuss 15 smart and simple things you can do to ensure your dog and baby build a strong and healthy relationship.
15 Do Introduce Baby’s Scent
After your baby is born, have your partner or a relative bring something home from the hospital that contains your baby's scent for your dog to investigate. This could be a washcloth or a receiving blanket for example. This will help to familiarize your dog with baby’s scent before coming home.
14 Don’t Assume Dog Will Adapt Immediately
Your dog may take a little while to understand that the baby isn’t going away. It will be an adjustment time for him as he figures out his new spot in the hierarchy. He may be extra needy for a period of time after your baby arrives. This will be tough on you as you’ll have your hands full so make sure your partner is on board to help manage and support your pup.
13 Do Make Changes Before Baby Arrives
If there are going to be big shifts in your dog’s life post baby, make the changes well in advance of baby’s arrival. You’ll be better able to assist your dog in the adjustment before your baby arrives. This will also help mitigate any negative associations the dog might make regarding the changes and the baby.
For example, if your dog sleeps in your bed, it’s best to shift him out long before your baby comes home. Or if there will be changes to his routine that you can anticipate, make those changes well in advance.
12 Don’t Leave Baby and Dog Alone
As much as you love and trust your dog, you have no idea how he will react to a baby. Don’t leave them alone together even for a moment. Sometimes anxiety can build up in dogs making them act in unexpected ways.
11 Do Make Sure Dog Has Its Own Space
Your dog may get overwhelmed and irritated by the noises your baby makes, as well as with all of the activity associated with baby care and coddling. Make sure he has his own space to escape to. Just like people, dogs need to get away sometimes. This might mean moving his bed or mat to a quiet space in the house or laying out his favorite blanket in a baby-free zone so he can chill out.
10 Don’t Let Baby and Dog Share Toys
It’s remarkable how similar some baby and dog toys can look. Soft, squeaky, and colorful, the toys will appeal to both. But of course it’s best to keep them separate--first to prevent germs, and second to prevent jealousy. Dogs can be very possessive of their toys and you don’t want your dog lashing out at your baby.
9 Do Teach Baby to Respect Dog
When baby gets a little older, they will be very interested in your dog. Hopefully, a wonderful bond has started to form, and in order for it to continue, make sure your baby doesn’t annoy your dog. Teaching your baby to respect your dog is really important. This means teaching your baby how to pet and pat the dog appropriately, not to pull the dog’s hair or grab his tail.
8 Don't Forget to Walk Dog
You’ll have a million things to do and worry about after your baby arrives, but your dog will still need to be walked just as much as ever. Walks are likely your dog’s favorite part of the day and are so important to his physical and mental health. If you can manage it, take your baby and dog out together.
If walks will be tough for you and your partner to accommodate, it might be worthwhile to consider a dog-walking service until your routine settles down.
7 Do Pay Attention to Dog’s Cues
Watch your dog carefully, particularly after bringing baby home and after baby starts crawling. If your dog moves away anytime your baby comes near or growls, he’s trying to communicate something. This doesn’t mean he is going to harm the baby, but it does mean he’s uncomfortable and/or anxious. Paying attention to the cues your dog provides around your baby will be helpful in understanding how he’s feeling and also in making sure baby is safe.
6 Don’t Let Baby Play in Dog’s Bowls
One bowl filled with water, and one filled with kibble--how fascinating for a baby! Dog bowls are also very germy and unsafe. Plus, it's disrespectful to your dog to let your baby get his hands in there. Further, some dogs can be aggressive and possessive of their bowls so it's best to avoid this and keep them out of baby’s reach.
5 Do Include Dog in Baby’s Activities
When it’s appropriate, involve your dog in the things you do with your baby and talk to them both. This will help your dog continue to feel included. If it works for everyone, let him be around when you’re changing diapers, playing with your baby, nursing or bottle-feeding, or getting your baby dressed. And a great way for all of you to bond is to go for walks together.
4 Don’t Let Baby Ride Dog
We have all seen videos and images of babies on the backs of dogs. This is not a good idea. First of all, it is really dangerous for both of them. Not only could baby fall, but it’s also very unhealthy for your dog’s back and hips. Dogs are not ponies.
3 Do Pay Attention to Changes in Dog’s Demeanor
Dogs can get depressed, too. Watch for changes in your dog’s demeanor, particularly if he stops showing his usual signs of happiness and cheer. Depression in dogs isn’t so different from depression in humans and can surface after big life changes like a move or a new addition to the household. But, there are things you can do, so if you see changes to your dog, it's best to talk to your vet or an animal behaviorist.
2 Don’t Forget Every Situation Is Different
Maybe family members or friends have assured you that your dog will be fine after your baby arrives and the two will be fast friends. And hopefully this will be true, but we can’t assume all situations will turn out the same. Of course, we can hope for the best but it’s also important to be mindful that just because it went a certain way for someone else, doesn’t mean it will for you. Your dog and your baby are both unique, and that’s part of the reason you love them so much.
1 Do Love Your Dog as Much as You Always Did
That awesome fur ball was your original baby. Your heart grew to make room for your baby but there is still a lot of room for your dog too. You might feel overwhelmed caring for everyone at first, so ask for help if necessary. Once your baby is old enough to appreciate and respect your dog, you’ll see a great relationship blossom. Dogs are good for kids which is just another reason to love your dog even more.