I get a lot of questions about the best way to treat your dog when you bring your little one home. In fact, it’s my entire business. Should you introduce the baby right away? How do you make sure your dog doesn’t feel left out? When is the best time to let your dog have one on one time? The list of questions, fears, and insecurities goes on and on. Here are a few things that I have learned, through my own experience of bring babies home to a house with an established pack of pups, and through helping other families through this transition.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Just like in parenting, owning and training dogs is a very individualized experience. No two dogs are the same, just as no to families are the same, so while there are techniques that work for ALMOST all cases, flexibility is also key. Keep this in mind as you prepare your dog for your little one’s arrival, and also when you bring your baby home and begin the business of living again. When I suggest waiting a week or more to introduce your dog to your baby up close and personal, your dog may need more time, or may only need a few days.
Similarly, dogs have different personality types just like humans do. These differences in personality affect what motivates your pup, how quickly they adjust to and cope with change, and what sort of assistance they’ll need with these big changes that a baby will bring. Understanding your dog’s specific and special temperament and personality will help you be able to train and support him through all of this.
Just remember to be flexible, and to take whatever advice you are given and adjust it to fit your own dog and family’s needs. Just because it’s not always applicable out of the box doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not helpful advice…just that you need to be open minded when dealing with both children and dogs.
Don’t rush things.
I know from my own experience that it’s very tempting to try to get things up and running as soon as possible once your baby comes home. You want to get a schedule set, you want everyone to adjust, and you want life to return to normal. I understand how irritating the “Don’t worry about the housework,” type of advice can be, especially if you do not have a big support system waiting to envelope you when you come home from the hospital.
However, remember that when it comes to introducing and helping your dog adjust to his new family member, neither of them is going anywhere. It will be many months before your baby is able to interact in any meaningful way with your dog, so there’s no need to slap them together to be best buddies right away. In fact, rushing things can cause some difficult to overcome complications that you should avoid anyway! So take your time, and worry more about getting to know your new baby and getting life back on track than about fostering a lifelong friendship for a little while.
Be kind to yourself.
This is another one that can be difficult sometimes, particularly if you are a perfectionist like I am. The saying that goes around, that you’re no good to anyone if you’re not taking care of yourself, is absolutely true. When you first bring your little one home, absolutely the only thing that you need to be worrying about is your baby and yourself. I promise, your dog is not going to be upset with you if you do not give him a not of attention during this time. Dogs are not stupid, and they know when big things are happening. And having a new baby is definitely a big thing.
The most important thing here is to give yourself grace. Don’t beat yourself up if your dog spent most of his day outside with his toys, rather than on the couch with you. He’s probably fine with it! Don’t be upset if you had to hire a dog walker, or drop your pup off at doggy daycare for awhile until you have your feet under you and the big changes handled.
Include your dog when you are ready.
The key there is “when you are ready.” When you are ready, and the dog is ready. If your dog is super hyper and overly excited about your baby every time he sees her, your dog is not ready. And if you feel anxious or unsure about beginning to include your dog in the activities you do each day with your baby, you are not ready. And that’s okay! This is a huge transition for your family.
One big thing that may make you feel better during this time is having a blueprint for introducing your dog to your baby. Having some easy, simple steps to follow through the introduction process can help you feel more confident that you’re doing things as safely and as kindly as possible for both your baby and your dog.
This gives you a step by step guide to follow through the introduction process, and it’s the very list of steps that I have done each time I’ve brought my own babies home.
I know that this is a time of transition. Believe me, I KNOW! I’m right in it with you, I promise. But the very best things that you can do to make sure you stay sane, and that your baby and your dog stay safe, happy, and grow to have a wonderful bond, is just to take your time. Don’t rush things. Be kind to yourself, and forgiving to yourself and your dog when you make mistakes. As I said before, there is no rush. Your dog and your baby are not going anywhere, so you have got many weeks, months, and years to help them become the very best of friends!