Bringing home a new addition is an exciting time for the entire family – two- and four-legged alike! When introducing your pet to any new addition, it’s important to take things slow, but introducing one that doesn’t have four paws has some extra things to take into consideration.
You’ve likely acquired all of the key baby items well in advance of their arrival, which is great because you’ll want to set them up as early as possible. This way, your pet will have time to get used to the new items and learn how to behave around them (hint: no jumping in the crib!) well before the baby arrives.
There’s a good chance that your dog’s routine is going to be impacted by the new arrival, so try to think ahead about what these changes could be. You can then start making these changes gradually before the baby arrives, so they don’t associate a sudden change with the new addition. Start doing things you will do with the baby, such as walking with the stroller, walking at different times, rocking a doll or blanket, or even playing a recording of various baby sounds, so your pet gets used to them over time.
When you first arrive home with your newborn, start by greeting your pet alone. They will likely be very excited by your return – so much so that they may jump up or weave between your legs – and you don’t want to risk the baby getting in the middle of that. Once they’ve calmed down you can start the process of introducing them to their new family member.
With babies come lots of new sights, smells, and sounds that can be unfamiliar and potentially overwhelming to your pet. You’ll want to give them a few days to become accustomed to them before making any introductions. During this time, you can give them pieces of the baby’s clothing to smell, minimize the amount that they’re around when the baby is crying, and let them observe what’s going on from a distance. Once they no longer seem to be experiencing sensory overload, you can start the in-person introductions.
The first time your pet meets the baby, you’ll want them to be secured in some way. This could mean on a leash, but even just holding them in your arms can work. If they’re on a leash, allow them to initiate the approach at their own pace. If they’re in your arms, move very slowly and keep a close eye on their body language. During the first introductions, be sure to give them lots of praise and even treats – this will help them develop a positive association with the baby. You can do these secured introductions a few times before finally allowing them to interact freely. It goes without saying that supervision is a must any time your pet will be spending time with the baby, whether or not they’re restrained.
For your pet, having a new addition to the family can be understandably overwhelming at times. This is why it’s important that you have a safe, baby-free space that your pet can escape to when they need some downtime. This could be an entire room or even just the top of a shelf or crate, as long as they have somewhere comfortable and quiet to rest.
As a new parent, you have a lot of things on your plate so don’t be afraid to ask for help. A professional can help with training before or after the baby arrives so you can focus on practicing rather than teaching the desired behavior. If you don’t know a trainer in your area, your veterinarian will be able to recommend one.
We hope these tips are helpful in getting you ready to introduce your pet to a new family member. Taking the time to plan a proper introduction will help make sure that your two- and four-legged family members can enjoy many wonderful years with each other.