Note: Always consult, as this new mother did, with a certified trainer when it comes to introducing pets to tiny hoomans!
You did it! You had a baby. After hours of labor, an intense delivery, countless checkups, and too many hospital meals, you are finally ready to bring your baby home and introduce him/her to the world. There will be many friendly faces ready to greet you and your bundle of joy, but there is one meeting in particular that is the most important (and I'm not talking about Grandma).
It's time to introduce your baby to your dog!
Here are 7 tips for prepping your pooch and your house for bringing home baby.
1. Begin with Boundaries
Start introducing your dog to the upcoming household changes long before your baby arrives. During your pregnancy make decisions about where the dog-friendly areas will be and ensure everyone in the house enforces the new boundaries.
Dogs respond to consistency and will eventually understand where they are and are not allowed if everyone is on board with both reprimanding and rewarding behaviors.
2. Curing Curiosity
Whether it’s your first or fifth baby, you will inevitably have many new items to assemble, clean, fold, and organize. If possible, get your pooch involved!
Assemble the crib in a common space, or let them sniff the newly washed onesies before you put them away. I let our German Shephard Roxy hang with me in the baby's room while I was going through the seriously intense portion of my nesting phase. After all of that exposure to the baby's thing, she has never chewed up a piece of clothing or toy of Connor's! The less items are foreign to you Furry Friend, the less desire they will have to pick-up, sniff, or chew on them in the future.
3. No Delivery Drama
For your dog that is! You know you will need someone to watch your dog while you are in the hospital. But once those contractions hit, finding a Dog Sitter will be the last thing on your mind. So plan ahead, way WAY ahead. During our baby shower, many of our friends and family asked what they could do to help us. We ended up cashing in a few of those favors the first week of Connor's birth!
Or if you need professional help, make a reservation with a local dog boarding facility that can accommodate a flexible start date. Whoever your Doggie Au Pair turns out to be, assume you will need them to Pet-Sit for at least a week. (2 days of labor, 4 days of hospital stay, and 1 extra day just in case) If it’s less, great, but plan for the longest scenario just in case.
It’s also a smart idea to consider having assistance with your pets during the first few weeks at home post-delivery. Enlist a doggie-dedicated friend to come feed, walk, and play with your pooch a few times a week. The refreshing energy of a non sleep-deprived visitor will help keep up the morale in your home (and motivate you to change your sweatpants and possibly even take a shower!). True story.
4. Love At First Sniff
If possible, bring home an item of your Newborn’s from the hospital ahead of time. This is a great project for Dad. (My husband Neil brought home a knitted beanie that Connor had been wearing and put it in Roxy's crate. ) A blanket, beanie, or sock will do. Let your dog smell it before the child is brought home so they can get use to the baby’s scent.
When you are ready to cross the threshold, it's best to divide and conquer. Have Dad enter the house to greet your dog, while you remain outside with baby. After all the recent separation, give your dog time to be excited and playful. Once your dog has shown their affection, Dad should keep your dog on a leash while you enter. Allow your dog to sniff the baby while in a standing position. If your dog seem to be interested but docile, bend down with the child and let your pooch get a closer sniff. Proceed with caution and closely monitor all behavior.
5. Be That Helicopter Parent
Even if you don’t generally agree with the “Helicopter” style of Parenting, now is the time to dust off your propellers and prepare to hover. Anytime your Dog and Baby are in the same space, you need to be present. Not typing an email on your phone, not watching a rerun of reality TV, but physically and mentally right next to your baby and pet.
The size and breed of your pet cannot determine how much you trust their behavior. It’s unfortunately true that dogs of all ages, sizes, breeds, and temperaments have bitten children. As pet parents, we love our fur babies to such an extreme depth that we often forget that they are in fact animals. And since an animal’s reaction to a stranger suddenly invading its territory can be unpredictable, as parents we need to be 100% present in their interactions with each other.
6. Respect the Routine
When you first bring a newborn home you quickly learn you are on their
time. If they are hungry, you feed them. If they crapped their pants, you change them. And when they are sleeping, you have a short window for a few precious winks of sleep. But pets find comfort in stability, so keeping their routines as normal as possible is critical to the overall happiness of your household.
Make it very clear whose responsibility it is to attend to your four-legged family members. Husbands, Aunties, Neighbors, Grandma, and Older Siblings are all great nominees for this task. Do your best to keep feeding and walking times relatively close to normal. This will help your pooch feel a sense of security and calm in the midst of the newborn whirlwind. And don’t forget the exercise! Taking 15 minutes to toss the ball or Frisbee around with your furry friend can give both you and your Dog a chance to decompress.
7. Separate Snuggle Time
Once upon a time, your pooch was your “Baby.” So don’t forget that they need you love and affection just as much as your newly minted mini me. Do your best to carve out separate snuggle time one on one with your fur baby.
Spend 20 minutes petting them, playing with them, or just flat out crying into their fur with pure exhaustion. I promise they will understand. Consider buying them a special toy or their favorite treat as a reward for being such a trooper during such a crazy, wonderful, difficult, transitional time in your blossoming family.
Soon, it will be nothing but love!
Featured Image via zoeyandjasper.tumblr.com