We’ve all seen adorable videos of dogs becoming fast friends with newborns – playing with them or protecting them from vacuum cleaners – but how do we safely arrive at this happy place? Strategies for introducing your furry best friend to your newborn child is an often-overlooked topic but a crucial one. There are important steps you will want to take to make sure that your dog understands how to be around your baby safely, and that both your dog and your baby understand how to spend time together.
Your Baby Comes First
The first thing to establish is that your newborn baby is always your priority. It may seem obvious, but there are important ways to show this to your dog.
- Let your dog see you showing love and affection to your newborn – holding the child, coddling, anything to “baby” your child.
- Have at least one parent whose full attention is on the baby at all times in the room – if you are holding your child, this isn’t the time to also pet the dog.
- There shouldn’t be any accidental interactions between your dog and your baby. This is an important time to maintain structure.
Creating Structure Around the Baby
- Have a place command for your dog whenever the baby is out. This can be a pen, a pillow, or a pad – as long as the dog has a specific place to go and be when the baby is in the same room. The dog will know that he is expected to be in his place and won’t have to wonder what to be doing.
- Always keep the baby physically higher than the dog to help establish hierarchy. If the baby is on the couch, make sure the dog stays on the floor.
- It is important that your dog experiences the baby’s presence as a positive thing. Provide praise and rewards when the dog stays in her designated place and gently correct behavior if necessary.
- Make sure that your baby and your dog always eat separately. is a great opportunity to add some structure to the routine. Most importantly, it prevents your dog from seeing the baby as competition for food.
- Make sure that your baby and your dog always sleep separately. This reinforces the hierarchy you’re building.
Some Things to Avoid
Now that we’ve covered some ways to introduce your dog to your baby and create some structure, here are some things to avoid during the process:
Don’t bring your baby to your dog to smell.
Some folks think the dog needs to put its nose on or near the baby for a good sniff to become familiar and accept the new family member. In reality, a dog’s sense of smell is among the most powerful in the world, and can smell the baby from a mile away, let alone from the other side of a room. There is no need to introduce your baby to your dog this way, and it’s best to keep your baby above your dog as we discussed earlier.
Don’t let your baby annoy your dog.
Maintain your control of the relationship. If your baby begins to poke your dog or otherwise pester, gently correct your baby’s behavior – and make sure your dog sees you. This way, your dog will know that you will step in if something is bothering her, and that she doesn’t need to react. You’re in charge – don’t make your dog try to figure out how to react.
Don’t leave your baby alone with your dog.
No matter how much your dog loves your new baby, it’s not the time to leave them alone together. Your dog is relying on your leadership, make sure to allow time and comfort level between the two to grow, and for your baby to get a bit older before being alone with the dog.
At Breakthrough K9 training we know that well trained dogs are integral members of happy families and are more than capable of understanding that your new baby is deserving of the most special respect and love.