“Is my baby safe around my dog?”
“How can I prepare my dog for my baby’s arrival?”
“How do I manage a baby and my dog?”
Depending on your situation you might have asked at least one of these questions. Having a baby changes your life. Bringing a dog home changes your life too. As part of Wagr Advice, we get a lot of questions centred around new pet parents who also have a baby. We decided to take four of the most commonly asked questions and build an informative little guide. To achieve greater focus, this article assumes you already have a dog when you have a baby.
Is it ok to have dogs around babies?
When Mehul went down on one knee, he had an additional question to ask Reena, his girlfriend. “Can we get a dog?”. Reena said ‘yes’ to both and they did get Peanut, a Beagle, a couple of months after they got married. Peanut technically became their first baby, snuggling into bed with them, going for playtime at the beach, and horsing around with the neighbours’ kids. Two years later, when Reena was expecting their first child, their biggest worry was, “Is Peanut’s presence safe for the baby?”
The short answer is yes, dogs and babies can be friends.
It’s an all too familiar scenario for young pet parents. It’s natural to be anxious about your baby’s safety as well as your dog’s comfort around the new member.
Dogs are very welcoming and are great around babies provided they’re prepared for it. However, do keep in mind that children up to the age of 2 to 3 years old must never be left alone with your dog no matter how much you’ve prepared them for it or how gentle they’re known to be.
A baby’s movements are erratic. Dogs can interpret this in different ways and potentially make them anxious or excited. Both pets and children are unpredictable, which can lead to harmful consequences.
4 key tips to keep baby safe
Always carry your baby around with you even if it’s just to answer the door or a phone call
Don’t leave baby on the floor unsupervised even for one second if your dog is not in their crate
Make sure you give ‘alone time’ for your dog away from the baby. The noise and activity levels with a baby around can sometimes be stressful for dogs.
Prepping your dog for baby’s arrival
Now that Mehul and Reena knew how to ensure their baby’s safety they turned their attention to getting Peanut ready. This meant shifting perspectives to understand what life ahead looked like for him.
It also meant spending additional time with him, training him to adjust to a new member in the household.
If you’re in a similar situation, here are a few things you need to ensure.
Visit the vet
Take your dog for a quick check-up at the vet to understand how their breed holds up with babies and children. Some breeds like Mehul and Reena’s Beagle, Cocker Spaniels, and Golden Retrievers are known for their patience and gentleness with children but breeds like Bullmastiff or Huskies are not. Understand the extra steps you need to take if you happen to have a dog that’s not particularly kid-friendly.
Start changing patterns
Mehul and Reena began introducing new rules to train Peanut to become more independent. One of the first things they did was to stop the dog’s habit of coming into their room at all times. Establish similar boundaries with your pet. You don’t want them jumping up on the sofa or bounding into the room when the baby is sleeping.
Familiarize your dog with baby stuff
A baby has a considerably different range of movements or sounds that your dog has never encountered before. Start by making a playlist of baby sounds and videos to help them familiarize what a baby sounds and looks like. Allow your dog into the nursery while you’re setting it up, let them explore the furniture. This is also the best time to train them to know what they can and cannot touch.
4 key tips to prep dog before baby arrives
Install safety gates, get baby’s toys and other gear to help your pet get used to their smell and feel
Change walking or feeding routines if needed
Adjust the time you spend with them by introducing shorter but quality activities
Get a doll for training sessions to make the situation more realistic
Introducing baby and dog
Despite all the pre-baby training, dogs will still need to feel the presence of the real baby in as many ways as possible.
Introduce the baby’s scent
After Reena had the baby, Mehul asked two of his friends, who were also familiar with Peanut, to take some of the newborn’s clothes home to introduce the baby’s scent to the dog.
There are no limitations to the number of times or items you can use to reinforce the baby’s presence to your dog. Use the baby’s blanket, bottle, cap, etc. and even dab them with a particular lotion that has a positive association for the dog.
Keep things routine for your dog
Do remember to also keep things normal and predictable for your pet after the baby’s home to reduce their stress levels. The biggest worry for parents is the dog jumping when it’s near the baby. Prevent this by instilling commands of ‘sit’ and ‘stay’, and by reducing their curiosity. Get them used to you having the baby in your arms and help them understand that this is going to be a part of your daily routine.
Include your dog in activities
Don’t make dogs feel excluded at any point as this can lead to them acting up or resorting to abnormal behavior. Simply exercise caution each time they’re near the baby.
4 key tips to introduce dog and baby
Teach safe, calm actions when they come near the baby rather than harshly disciplining them. Allow them to sniff the baby from a distance, for example, and reward them for good behavior
Include your dog in new routines like changing diapers or feeding times
Be intensely aware of your mood and energy when baby and dog are together; dogs can sense when you’re anxious or fearful and play off on that
Keep the strictest rules for the nursery at the beginning and gently begin easing them as your dog adjusts
Managing baby and dog
It’s when things normalize (sort of) after your baby’s home that more testing times begin. This is when all the initial excitement gives way to maintaining a consistent routine. This is where your pet might need more care and attention as you tend to prioritize the needs of the baby.
Like all new parents, Mehul and Reena were sleep-deprived and tired. They no longer had time to take Peanut for long walks or play with him at home. Peanut’s pent-up energy was beginning to show in slightly erratic behaviour.
In such a situation, it’s best to rely on a friend or your relatives nearby to ensure that your dog’s routine is not disturbed. Exercise and play is always good as it boosts a dog’s mood levels (just as in humans) and makes them feel pleasantly tired. Also, allot a corner or a room where your dog can retire to when everything gets too much. They might currently be feeling overwhelmed and would need some quiet time to themselves.
4 key tips to manage dog and baby
Assign one person to take on basic dog care duties
Hire a certified trainer if certain behaviors persist
Positively reinforce obedient, calm mannerisms to prepare for when baby grows into a toddler
Don’t let your stress levels come through when you talk to your pet. Maintain a normal and soft voice and pet them for reassurance
A baby brings much joy into the home and so does a dog. The initial days are a balancing act and will need extra effort and actions from you to hold things together. After all, there are only so many hours in a day you can work with! Luckily, a baby and a dog are both people magnets and you should be able to find willing helpers to manage them both.
Don’t hesitate in asking someone to take your dog on a long walk or play fetch with them. People who know you will understand how important your dog is to you. Your dog would appreciate the continued care and attention, as well.
Mehul and Reena set up a schedule where they each snuck in about half an hour of quality time with Peanut. They enlisted their close friends, a neighbour, and their parents to help with both baby and dog. Now, both get undivided attention and everyone’s happy!