The greatest day has finally come that you’ll go home with your newborn baby. You imagined it as the best day of your life until you actually come home when a baby pitbull greets you with a growl! It’s not really how you imagined. But let’s be real. Your dog has been your baby for the longest time! And he is a tad bit territorial, knowing that he was the center of your attention before your baby suddenly came home with you. It’s not going to be easy, it’s actually normal! Your dog can’t think that “Welcome to my house, baby. Take control now!” He will always think that he is the alpha and will never back down, but once he realizes that this baby is part of the family, he will surely love him entirely and “might” share him with you!
Allowing your fur baby to meet your actual baby can be a worrying moment. He is so used to being your baby and still can’t grasp the idea that there’s a new baby in the house. Wanting the whole family to be friends is totally normal but, sometimes, it can be tricky for dogs to get used to someone invading their territory. So, how can you manage the moment your new baby and your dog meet?
Dogs are pack animals, so they are used to a hierarchy. Before the arrival of your bubba, your dog would have been in a higher position. He now needs to get used to things being a bit different.
The attention he has always received will be shared with your new baby and he probably won’t like it much to start with. Thankfully, dogs are generally pretty flexible and responsive, so with a bit of preparation and focus, Fido will be delighted with his new friend.
Prepare your fur baby as early as possible. Start while you’re pregnant and take your time to for your dog to anticipate the arrival of your new bundle of joy. Make sure before your baby arrives, your fur baby already knows how to safely interact with the new family member. Also, help your fur baby incline to the many changes that are coming. He’s not the baby anymore, but he was promoted to big brother!
If you have read our article, Preparing Pets For A Baby, you will have already started training your dog for the new arrival to your family. It’s important that you start to prepare your fur baby before you bring your bubba home.
Key areas to focus on are:
- Loud noises. Dogs have super sensitive ears so a crying baby will be a shock. Try playing clips of a baby crying to let Fido (and you) get used to the sounds.
- Smells. Dog’s noses are also super sensitive so give them a chance to sniff baby lotions, creams, and other products to get them familiar with the different scents.
- Attention. Your dog has probably been used to getting lots of play and attention. It might be hard to start with, but ignoring them, or making them wait for your attention, will help them prepare for less when the baby comes.
Dog behavior with a new baby
First impressions last. Your dog should have positive experiences with your baby right from the start.
Babies are foreign to dogs and with their arrival bring a whole new set of sounds, smells and movements that they’re simply not familiar with. So, it’s expected that your dog may react nervously or aggressively, to begin with.
When you introduce your fur baby to your new baby, the chances are your dog will be over-excitable. Dogs are naturally curious, and they will want to explore the strange addition to their home.
It’s important that you keep Fido calm before he meets your baby. Try taking him for a walk first so he is worn out or using a cheeky treat to calm him down. The first meeting should ideally be as calm as possible so neither Fido, nor your bubba, get upset.
When you are ready for your new baby and your dog to meet, it is usually best to keep your dog on a leash to start with, so you remain in control. Keep your voice low and clear, reassuring both Fido and your little one.
Furbabies love a good sniff so don’t be surprised if your dog immediately goes straight to smelling your bubba. If you have prepared your dog by getting them used to the smells, they should be quite relaxed.
At all times, watch your dog’s reaction to the baby. If there are any signs of Fido being distressed or aggressive, move him away immediately and see if he settles down. You can always try again later.
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Aggression and anxiety
Sometimes dogs can exhibit signs of aggression. If your dog is aggressive towards your new baby, it could be because he is anxious.
Babies have their own strong smell, that’s grim enough when you’re a new parent. Thanks to unchanged diapers and pungent foods, it can all become a bit too much for your canine companion too.
Loud cries can be extremely stressful for your dog and may force them to react in certain ways. For example, you may notice them pacing the floors or growling when anyone goes near them. While this may seem initially alarming, it’s simply a natural reaction that must be dealt with.
If your baby is the first child your dog has interacted with, it is likely Fido will be uncertain about the tiny human that has appeared in his home. Baby wriggling, gurgling and crying can be confusing for a dog and they might just need time to get used to the new addition to the family.
It can be hard to recognize whether your dog is aggressive or anxious and, as his owner, you will be the best judge of Fido’s emotional state. It is likely you will have seen your dog anxious or aggressive before and will know the signs for each emotion.
If you think your dog is being aggressive and your usual strategies don’t work, you can always invest in some additional training with a professional. You can find more information on the ASPCA’s Dog Training page.
If your dog is anxious around your new baby, you may need to give him some time and space. Never force your dog to interact with a baby; he will approach your bubba in his own time.
To gently encourage contact, use praise and rewards when your dog responds positively to the baby. Allow your dog to sniff around the baby or sniff your hand when you’ve touched the baby as this will make your dog more used to the smells. Before long, your new baby and your dog will start to get used to each other.
Signs your dog is jealous of your new baby
Dogs often show signs of jealousy when a new baby arrives. It is a common dog behavior with a new baby, versus when you bring home a newborn rottweiler. After all, they have been used to having all the attention and now they have to share it.
Typical behaviors that show jealousy include barking and growling; repeatedly demanding attention by doing tricks; peeing or pooping inside; refusing to leave your side; and isolating themselves away in a different room.
Most of the behaviors are normal and will subside after Fido gets used to things. Deal with the behavior firmly but remain calm. If your dog is agitated, shouting will not help. Be as positive as you can with your dog and reward good behavior enthusiastically.
Your dog will still need some attention so make sure they still get a chance to play and get lots of cuddles. If you show your dog you still love him just as much, he should stop being so jealous.
Carrying and interacting with a training baby doll will get your dog used to the idea that they’re not the center of attention anymore.
Your dog may jump up for attention, but it’s important not to respond. When they have all four paws on the ground, give them a treat. This demonstrates that when you have the baby in your arms, they should stay firmly on the ground at all times.
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Newborn baby and dog hair
New parents often worry about newborn babies and dog hair. As all dog owners know, dog hair can spread everywhere.
There has been an ongoing concern that pet hair increases a baby’s chance of developing asthma and/or increases the chance of developing allergies.
More recent studies have discovered that children with pets have stronger immune systems resulting in them being healthier.
Dog hair around the home has been proven to reduce the risk of allergies in children.
What you may not realize is that no-one is born with an allergy – they develop between the ages of 3-5 years old. Therefore, dog hair isn’t necessarily bad for a newborn.
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t be allowing your baby to eat dog hair. In a worst-case scenario, a hairball could develop in the intestines and cause a clog. So, just make a note of when they go quiet!
However, to be safe, and avoid any potential health issues, it’s best to keep dog hair short and hoover it up regularly.
Keeping your baby and dog happy together
1. Allow them to get used to the sounds and smells
Dogs get familiarized through smells. A few weeks before you go into labor, start using your baby’s wipes, lotion, shampoo and soap to acclimate your dog to the smell.
As soon as you bring the baby back from the hospital, your dog is bound to be confused by the new presence. As mentioned, the abundance of sounds and smells that come along with the new addition is sure to be overwhelming. Give them some space to get used to it.
Likewise, you may wish to introduce to your baby your dog’s photo, before they meet face-to-face. Otherwise, you will have an over-excited baby ready to tackle on your fur baby or, worse, an overwhelmed baby crying. And we wouldn’t want to overexcite both of them during their first meeting.
While you’re still at the hospital, it’s a great idea to let someone bring home some of the baby’s things and let your dog sniff it for him to “meet” the new family member through his nose. It would be a good idea to introduce an item belonging to your baby to your dog, as it’ll have their scent all over it. (Think a puppy baby blanket, dog baby clothes, or introducing puppy with babies toy, that they can play with and keep, of course).
However, it’s crucial that you put boundaries in place. Train your dog to sniff the blanket from a reasonable distance, while still holding the item. This shows that both the item and scent belong to you and you’re giving them permission to come into contact with it, but only from where they’re standing.
2. Train your dog
If your dog is easy to train, it would be well worth teaching them some basic commands such as ‘sit’, ‘settle’ and to go out of the room when commanded. You must still enforce that you are the one in authority.
However, this can be easier said than done with no prior experience. Attending a dog-training class or hiring a professional trainer to visit your home can be a great help to learn what to do, once the new baby arrives.
3. Set up safe zones
In the early stages, it’s not safe for your dog to be around your baby. This is especially important if they’ve never been around a child in your home. You can’t be sure how they may react, which is bound to make you feel on edge.
Therefore, it would be an idea to install gates at doorways to prevent your dog from entering rooms while unattended. Crates are also another useful training technique, which gives them their own safe space to retreat to when they feel uncomfortable.
Therefore, it would be a good idea to install gates at doorways. Your baby might not yet be able to crawl or walk, but it’s also great in preventing your dog from entering rooms while unattended. Crates are also another useful training technique, which gives them their own safe space to retreat to when they feel uncomfortable.
4. Use praise and treats where needs are
Whenever your dog shows good behavior, reward them. This training tactic alerts your four-legged friend that they’ve done good and deserve a treat. They will understand that what they’re doing is good and would continually do it. Over time your dog should associate certain behaviors with rewards, which is a key aspect of training.
However, ensure that you don’t give treats if they jump up, beg or bark unnecessarily. This will give off the wrong message (that they can get a treat anytime they wish) and probably make the situation even more stressful.
5. Take your dog and baby for a walk together
If you feel confident enough, it would be a great idea to take your baby and your dog out for a walk together. Train your dog to walk nicely along with the pram and reward them with treats as they go.
Dogs can become very territorial of their space in the home, which is why they may show aggression towards strangers.
When your baby and dog are out in the park together through, they’re on mutual ground. Regularly taking baby and Fido out together should make your dog more accepting of your new baby. And a dog that regularly gets his exercise is less likely to develop behavioral issues.
6. Never force them to interact
It wouldn’t be a good idea to force interaction between your dog and baby at the very beginning. You can’t be sure as to how Fido will react, so it would be advisable to let them meet one another in their own time.
Never leave your dog and baby alone together. Always be in attendance and keep a close eye at all times. Regardless of their breed or typical temperament, any dog is capable of showing aggression.
7. Be calm
When introducing your fur baby to your baby, remain calm and confident. This is crucial because pets can pick up on emotions or feelings. When you are anxious during the meeting, he might also feel the same way and react aggressively.
When you show to both your pet and baby that you have the situation under control, they will both likely feel calm and comfortable and maybe have a successful meeting.
Dog nipping at new baby
One of the reasons a dog nips is to show who is in charge; dogs often like to dominate. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re being nasty. It is just in their nature to be territorial and try to let everyone know that they are the boss.
However, they may also nip when they feel alarmed and wish to protect themselves and their owners from this new little thing that’s entered the home.
A nip or sharp bite can also be a reaction to being provoked by your little one. Your baby may think that his furry little friend is a toy and tug on his ears a little too hard. Watch out for any movements from your baby which may stress Fido.
Reprimand your dog’s nipping behavior immediately, making it clear it is unacceptable. If it’s not nipped in the bud as soon as it happens, it will only become more of a problem over time.
Sometimes a dog ‘nips’ during play, when he becomes overexcited. Again, it is important to make it clear that nipping at your new baby is not allowed.
Encourage your dog to be gentle with your baby by modeling the right behavior and using positive rewards.
Note: Never leave a dog alone with a baby, even if they seem perfectly relaxed. It is not worth the risk to your baby, or your dog.
Never punish your dog
Punishing your dog for bad behavior won’t help you achieve your goal to make him comfortable with the new family member.
Although you may believe that your dog is coming across aggressive to your baby, never punish them for their behavior.
If you notice she’s growling or snapping, she’s simply informing you that she isn’t comfortable in the situation. Therefore, remove her from the room, rather than telling her off.
If you simply don’t know how to handle your dog’s behavior, seek a professional behaviorist who is trained to deal with dog aggression.
Having another baby
Even if your dog reacted well to your firstborn child, it doesn’t mean they’ll react the same way again. It’s helpful to take the exact same steps as the first time around, just to be on the safe side.
Another baby is going to change the routine even more, so you need to prepare you and adapt your dog to the new situation.
Moving Forward with Your New Baby and Your Dog
It may take your dog time to understand how to act around a baby. A new baby is a big change for a dog too. Unlike humans, they can’t communicate how they feel so it can be hard for owners to know what to do.
They key thing is to be patient and stay positive. Read a puppy baby book written by professionals to discover more tips and tricks on building the relationship between your dog and baby.
You are getting used to having a new baby and so is your dog.
Some dogs will take longer than others to adjust but most dogs will adjust and happily accept their new family member.
Do you any tips for helping a dog get used to a new baby?
Share in the comments below!