How Do I Introducing Dog to Baby

Jennifer Shryock's picture

QUESTION

Dear Family Pet Expert,
My husband and I have a 7-month-year old Lab. We've had her since she was just 7 weeks old and I already knew that I was pregnant (about 2 months). We decided that it'd be easier to get a puppy before the baby came and have her trained, that way she'd be ready for when the baby arrived. She's a good dog, well trained and behaved; she does get excited at times, especially with new people around, but other than that she's a very good dog and we love her dearly.

Since I had decided I needed some time to myself before the baby comes, we sent her on a "vacation" to visit my husbands family, who also have 2 Labs. She loves it there so she's probably having a really great time! My husband and I had arranged that we pick her up about 3-4 weeks after the baby has been born, this way we'd have time to get used to OUR new schedule and routine. Although, lately we've both missed her and have been talking about the changing circumstances and if she'd better react to them if she were here when the baby arrived home or if she came back 3-4 weeks after the baby was born or if it would make any difference at all.

We are going to make a couple of changes in the house with regards to our dog, Lucy. For example, up until now she has had an area which we referred to as her "house" and when given that command she knew to go there. It's basically an entrance way we don't use that we made her sleeping area for at night, where we left her blanket and her water bowl. She's now big enough that she doesn't need to stay there anymore and so we'll just be leaving that area as the 2nd entrance way and moving her water bowl downstairs.

Do you think these changes along with the baby's arrival will be too stressful for her? Should we bring her back before the baby arrives and have her get used to the new arrangements right away?

I'm due in 2.5 weeks (May 7) and would love for you to respond to my email and help me out. I'm really torn as in what to do, I've never had a dog of my own and both my husband I have never been in the situation where we had to introduce a baby to a dog.

Thanks so much!
Pamella

ANSWER

Pamella,
Congratulations! Wow, so close! This is such a neat time in pregnancy as the anticipation of "the day" is fun and you know you are close now!You share a concern many couples have about the best way to include and prepare the 4 legged family member. The most important thing is that you are comfortable and do what feels right for you. If you feel that having Lucy there the first couple of weeks will be more stressful then follow your gut. Some families prefer some time before introducing the dog to the baby while others can't wait for the meeting. This is a personal choice and families are successful either way. The most important thing is to keep this meeting and interaction safe and stress free. Lucy will adapt and follow your lead.

As far as changing routines, etc. You may want to begin that gradually and not right away when she returns. Gradual changes help and loads of PRAISE!The bottom line is that most families find the introductions and bringing the baby home easy but they find the challenge comes once the baby is about 5 months and up. Keep these ideas in your mind.

  1. Always supervise ALWAYS!
  2. Although we love them, our dogs are DOGS and they react differently then we do.
  3. Always tell Lucy what you want her to do vs. what not to do. Provide alternatives for her.
  4. When you are feeling stressed and things are frazzled...allow Lucy an option elsewhere to enjoy a special treat or something.
  5. Keep baby's bedroom door closed at all times when she/he is sleeping.
  6. Cupping the baby's foot or hand in yours allows more comfort for Moms when letting the dog sniff baby.

There is so much to plan and it is hard to know for sure how things will go. As I say to all of the families I work with, this is like your birth plan. Have an idea of what you want to do and don't put too much pressure on yourself. You will know what to do at the time. Follow your instinct and enjoy the experience! I hope this is helpful!

-- Jen