Welcoming a new baby into the home is a huge moment in anyone’s life, but it’s important not to forget about how this might affect your fury family member who has, up until now, had you all to themselves.
The key is to introduce babies and dogs correctly from the very start to keep everyone happy, Pooches at Play’s vet Dr Melissa Meehan reveals.
“The process of introducing existing canine kids to a new baby doesn’t have to be a burden, provided you follow a few basic steps,” Melissa tells Be.
The veterinary surgeon of over 14 years says not think of it as your pup getting ‘demoted’ and instead ‘gaining a sibling’. She also says pre-planning is the key to success in the long run.
“If bubs hasn’t arrived yet, you can get in early by creating a positive association,” she tells us.
“Play a baby noise while your dog is eating, getting a pat or playing. Involve your dog in nursery preparations, talking to them reassuringly and giving them treats as the room evolves.”
Melissa also recommends giving a worn item of clothing to your dog straight after the birth so they have plenty of time to get used to the smell.
Having recently had to introduce her own son Luca to her two poodles Mia and Monty, Melissa admits it can be stressful when you first bring the baby home.
“Mia and Monty stayed at my parent’s house when we were in hospital and we left them there for a week until we’d settled in,” she reveals.
“This way, when they returned back home it was to a calmer environment and therefore less of a change.”
When it comes to the first introduction Melissa says to talk to your dog reassuringly in a normal happy tone the whole time, and use treats if possible.
“First let your dog smell bub’s foot, let them do it on their terms and never force them,” she says.
“Gradually let them smell more of the baby if they’re interested. Newborns don’t move around much so they’re unlikely to do anything unpredictable that will alarm your dog.”
So that things continue to go smoothly, Melissa has also given us some more tips and tricks from her own experience of bringing home a baby:
Never leave them alone
“This should be obvious but it’s often overlooked and needs to be implemented at all times – babies and dogs should never be left together unattended,” she says. “Dogs can accidentally walk on, knock or scratch a baby without any intention of hurting them.
“Also, babies can unintentionally be quite rough and uncoordinated and annoying to a dog and of course they can’t interpret the subtleties of dog body language.”
Involve them in night time feeds
“Involving your dog in night feeds can be a saviour. Dogs love to help and take part in these duties and getting up in the middle of the night can be quite isolating, so having your pooch by your side provides some much-needed moral support,” says Melissa.
Watch out for increased aggression
“Canine guarding behaviour over you will increase when you’re pregnant and then increase further once baby arrives,” Melissa says.
“So be prepared for some anti-social behaviour to passers-by when you go for a walk and nip it in the bud early with some training and food distraction.”
“Train your dog not to jump up - even if they’re only 2kg - before baby arrives. This will prevent any unwanted scratches to bubs from an over exuberant canine friend.
Melissa says it’s important to be empathetic to your dog’s needs throughout the whole process and not just focus on the new addition.
“If you allow them to be involved in your baby’s life as much as possible, in a safe and positive environment, your child will be able to appreciate the future canine companionship as much as you do,” she says.
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