That special moment you find out about the arrival of a new family member can be very exciting but can also raise concerns about how your dog will react. Making sure you keep both your baby and dog safe around each other is crucial to keeping a happy family. With all the preparation you will have to undertake it is vital that you plan your change of routine in advance, as every dog can react differently.
Before the baby is due
There are several top tips you can do with your dog to prepare them prior to their arrival:
Start training early
Make sure that your dog understands basic commands will help you better control them before the baby arrives. This will be useful should you need your dog to respond to you quickly. Teach your dog basic behaviours such as sit, settle and to take food gently. Discourage them from jumping up by teaching a controlled greeting.
Practice getting a swift response to commands such as come, leave or no.
Create a safe space for your dog
Give your dog a place inside the house that is completely dedicated to them. It should be somewhere outside of areas dedicated to the baby, but close enough to the family that your dog still feels included, such as a large crate or a corner of the kitchen or living room.
Set strict boundaries inside your home
If you do not want your dog to enter a specific room such as the baby's room, teach them that it is a restricted area. A good alternative is to set up a baby gate in the door of the baby's room. This allows your dog to see what's happening without entering the room. A quiet area for your dog to escape to is essential.
Adjust your routine
Bringing a new baby into the home will likely shift your focus and your ability to pay attention to your dog. Vary your routine to help your dog become accustomed to a less-predictable schedule. Try taking naps in the afternoon to mimic the irregular times you might sleep. You can also create a more variable feeding schedule by switching the time you feed your dog to tie in with your new schedule.
This might also mean getting them used to being alone for short periods of time while you are in another room or out of the house. If you are changing your dog’s sleeping arrangements make sure this is done as early as possible so that you give plenty of time to allow your dog to accept the restrictions without linking them to the appearance of the new baby.
Avoid giving your dog extra attention in the days before the baby arrives. This may reinforce the concept that you are able to spend more time with your dog than you can reasonably give once the baby arrives
It is likely that the length of their walks, who will be walking them, and the time of day are going to change once the baby arrives. Getting your dog used to these different factors will make it easier for them to cope.
Get your dog used to walking beside a pushchair. You can do this by walking them around the garden with an empty one so they understand not to pull or jump up. It’s important that the lead always remains in your hand and is never tied around the pushchair. You will not have control of the lead if it is out of your hand.
You can play recordings of a baby crying or screaming at different points in the day to get them used to the sounds a baby will be making. You should make sure you start off slowly by first doing it for 30 seconds on a low volume and over the weeks gradually build it up.
Get your dog used to unfamiliar objects associated with the baby's arrival. This may include walking next to a pram and investigating the cot, or Moses basket. Keep baby toys out of reach of the dog and make sure your dog has its own toy box.
When baby arrives
There are several top tips below for when the baby arrives:
- When bringing the baby home from hospital, mum should greet the dog first as they will be delighted to see her after she's been away, the baby can be brought in calmly afterwards
- Introduce your dog to the baby in a relaxed and calm way. If possible, have two people present, one to care for the baby and one to control/look after the dog
- Choose a time when the baby is asleep if possible and not when it is fractious, crying will upset or arouse the dog and may get things off on the wrong foot
- Don’t shut the dog away but be aware of his reactions, if he is curious but calm, allow him to investigate by sniffing the baby’s clothing, the pram etc
- Do not put the baby on the floor at this stage, either hold it in your arms or put the baby carrier on a chair with you sitting beside it in control of the situation. If your dog becomes boisterous, pushy or unsure keep him on a lead, gently restraining him as he approaches the baby, be ready to gently remove him if necessary. Speak quietly to the dog and praise them for being calm. Make this initial introduction brief then encourage the dog to settle calmly. It is natural for him to be curious. If you must leave the room, take the dog with you and close the door until you return
- Teach your dog to stay behind a baby gate or in a crate. This will keep them away from the baby while they will still be able to see what is going on. Teach this before the baby arrives, this will make the transition much easier
- If necessary, use the things that you would normally use to occupy your dog whilst you are dealing with the baby. They may just want to lie behind the barrier and watch you
- Try to keep to the dog’s usual routine, they will still appreciate their walks and one to one time with you. Don’t forget their mealtimes
- Never leave the dog and baby alone together
- As the baby grows and becomes mobile close supervision is important when the dog and baby are together. The Kennel Club Safe and Sound cheme has lots of relevant advice for you
Please note: there are many different ways you can handle dog behaviour. If you are ever in doubt, always seek professional advice. If you have any further questions or need advice on who to contact, please contact our team.
For more information and advice, you can find training classes with The Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Training scheme. Browse our full list of The Kennel Club Accredited Instructors or find a dog training club near you.