Dogs need to be prepared for a new arrival to ensure everyone is kept safe and happy.
Prepare for the sight and sound of a new baby, changes to routine and access within the home as early as possible.
Transfer the scent of the new baby to the dog prior to introducing the baby if possible.
Ensure the dog is never left alone with the baby.
Recognise dog body language for signs that the dog needs space away from the baby.
Barriers and baby gates are vital to keep the dog and baby separate when not supervised
When separating the dog give them some toys or treats to engage their attention.
How can I prepare my dog for the arrival of my baby?
Like expectant parents, dogs also need time to prepare for the changes that come with the arrival of a new baby.
Sleep is disturbed, walk routines are likely to be altered, the house is filled with the sound of newborn noises, new items of furniture appear, access to rooms or sleeping arrangements might change, and attention is directed elsewhere.
If the dog has to cope with all of these change at once when the baby arrives, they may find it very stressful.
As early as possible, start to implement changes to the household such as altering access to rooms using baby gates, or getting your dog used to new sleeping arrangements (for example, if your dog currently sleeps in your bed, it is not recommended to co-sleep with the baby in the bed as well). Start to vary the times your dog is walked or employ the services of a professional dog walker as soon as you can.
When new baby items and furniture are purchased, give the dog a chance to investigate. For example, leave the pram up in the hallway, place the car seat in the kitchen, and the Moses basket in the lounge.
Start playing the sounds of a baby crying using recordings, starting at a volume that the dog barely acknowledges it and gradually increase the volume so that the dog remains disinterested.
Hold a cuddly toy wrapped in a blanket and pretend to shush and bounce around the ‘baby’, rewarding your dog for remaining settled.
How can I safely introduce my new baby to my dog?
Scent is very important to dogs – this is how they navigate their world. If possible, provide items the baby has been wearing such as a worn vest or babygrow that the dog can calmly investigate prior to meeting the baby.
If there has been a period away from the dog, such as for a hospital birth, greet the dog on returning home first without the baby. Let the dog familiarise themselves with your unfamiliar scent and allow them a chance to calm down from greeting you.
Bring the baby into the room in the car seat if possible rather than holding the baby, so that you are still able to interact with the dog. Place the car seat safely on a surface rather than on the floor. Reward the dog for coming away from the baby. Use a lead if the dog might jump up.
If necessary and the dog is calm and on a lead, provide access so that the dog can sniff at the baby’s feet but not the face.
How can I ensure my baby stays safe living with my dog?
Baby gates and pens are extremely useful to help keep everyone safe and happy. They provide segregation without the dog feeling as though they are completely alone, which being shut behind a closed door can do.
Ensure the dog is happy being segregated by providing them with a comfortable bed area, tasty chews and items to lick at whilst they are behind the barrier. Start off with short periods (ideally before the baby has even arrived) and gradually build up the time they are behind the gate.
Some dogs might need to be on a lead if they are in the same room as the baby, and kept at a safe distance, until the dog has relaxed in the presence of the baby and all the noises and activities that come with it.
It is vital that all dogs are constantly supervised when in the same room as a baby and that owners are familiar with body language that indicates a dog needs more space from a baby. These signs include staring, tongue flicking, yawning, whites of the eyes showing, trembling, pulling the ears back, turning the head away, or whining.