Whitney has over 10 years of experience in dog training, rescuing, and healthcare.
Having a Baby; Already Had a Dog
The problem in many new family and couples is how to introduce the family pet to the new baby. You want to make the transition as smooth as possible without any fatalities.
The family dog may be a great natured dog to adults and older children, but have you ever had him around a newborn?
To dogs, babies are not human. They sound different, smell different, and act different. You have to find the best way to introduce you dog, your beloved family pet, to the newest member of the family.
Don't give up and just pack away your pooch. That's not fair.
Dogs and Babies
Naturally, dogs tend to be very curious of babies. They're new and different. But, you want to monitor every single interaction with your dog and the new baby.
Babies can be accidentally hurt by a curious dog nudging, prodding and kissing at the baby.
Dogs can accidentally smother a baby lying for his nap. Knock over the crib. Anything can potentially happen.
It's up to you, the adult, to monitor and prevent any accidents.
Don't worry too much, on average there are actually very few infants hurt or killed by the family pet each year.
Making the Introductions
Getting Ready for the Baby
You should start prepareing your dog for the baby's arrival months beforehand.
You may consider reducing the amount of attention towards the dog a few months prior to the baby's birth. In many cases, after a new baby is brought home, dogs may begin to misbehave, which could be the cause of jealousy and the sudden lack of attention. Make sure not to neglect the dog, but don't devote all your spare time to him either; this will help the transition of attention go a little smoother, meaning hopefully he won't act out after the child is born.
Make sure that your dog knows his basic obedience commands, such as sit, stay, down, leave it, and come when called, as these simple commands can be a no- brainer saver for your baby. Make sure that the dog is 100% reliable, not just sometimes reliable because you don't want a false sense of security when a big dog and a small baby. You need to make sure that you can trust that the dog sits and stays while you tend to the baby, instead of rushing towards the baby when it cries.
Start using the commands while you pretend to do baby activities, such as rocking the baby to sleep, changing a diaper, and feeding times. Use a baby doll, to resemble a newborn baby. Have the dog sit and stay or down and stay while you rock the baby to sleep; this prevents the dog from jumping in your lap with the baby in your arms.
The dog needs to know self control, so using a baby doll helps the reality of the situation. Finding a doll that cries and makes "funny" baby sounds may help your dog get accustomed to the strange sounds that will soon be his reality.
You want to expose your dog to everything baby. Don't throw it all at him at once, but a gradual exposure will work best. Make sure that all situations are in a controlled environment.
Introduce your dog to real babies and infants, so he can get accustomes to the sounds, movements, and smells of a real baby versus a plastic one. In these situations, make sure that the child's safety is secured. Make sure that your dog is reliable with his commands before attempting this exercise.
When the baby is born, you can bring home blankets and clothes to get the dog familiarized with the baby's scent before you actually bring the baby home.
Bringing the Baby Home
When the newborn comes home for the first time, it's best that the mother greets the dog first without the baby. Let the baby's father or another family member hold the baby, while the mom greets the family dog. This prevents the dog getting reprimanded for the first time that the baby walks through the door.
Allow the dog to get used to the new smells and sounds of the baby before you ever try to introduce the dog to the newborn. Let the dog settle down before true introductions are made.
When you are ready to introduce the dog and the new baby, make sure that one parent is holding the baby and the other the dog.
Make sure that the dog is leashed, and put in a sit/ stay command. You may want to start with the dog 10 feet away, and gradually move the dog closer and closer to the parent holding the baby.
Only begin to move closer if the dog is acting calm, otherwise let the dog relax before moving forward. This may take several sessions before you are able to let the dog get close enough to the baby; it may take even longer if the dog has had prior aggression problems.
Always use caution when introducing a baby to a dog for the first time.
Do not unleash the dog for several days when around the baby. You want to make sure that the dog will not jump on or harm the baby.
After the First Few Days
No matter how well you think the introductions have gone, NEVER EVER, leave your new baby and your dog together unsupervised.
You want to take extra precautions when the baby is crying or moving his arms and legs. Dogs are still predators, and may want to investigate these strange behaviors or even leap on the child.
In these cases, put the dog in a down/ stay on the other side of the room.
You dog may start to act up after you've brought the new baby home, as discussed before, but if you were able to properly slacken the amount of attention prior to the baby's birth, the dog shouldn't act as poorly. Just make sure to keep your dog on his normal schedule of feeding, playing, and exercise. Although, it may be a big adjustment at first, it should keep your dog behaving properly, or as normal, versus misbehaving.
You may want to invest in dog gates, to block off areas where the baby may be so that the dog cannot sneak in without you there to supervise. This allows you to leave the door open, so you can still hear the baby, but keeps the dog out of the room.
In the end...
Make sure that you make this change in your dog's life a positive one. Periodically, put your dog in a sit/ stay and reward him with a treat. Make sure to be holding the baby, while you do this. In the dog's mind, it should elicit the thought, "baby, sit, stay, treat."
You know your dog and his behaviors, so you know what you should look for in any signs of aggression or attitude. Keep this in mind when the dog is around or in hearing range of the baby.
Dogs will often actively check on and investigate a new baby, so make sure to take all precautions necessary, and never allow the dog around the new baby unsupervised.
Deb on December 16, 2011:
Great article. I used a book for me an Ralph when Leon was born. It is called Tell Your Dog You're Pregnant: An essential guide for dog owners who are epxecting a baby. It has a website on the book babyandpet.com.au Hopefully that can help someone else
MikeandHisShorthairs on May 31, 2011:
Absolutely awesome article. The tips go way beyond any other article I found online. The pictures create a feeling of happiness and not fear like some articles I've checked out on the same topic. I'm personally going to rely on a combination of this article and praying to God that my adult Male German Shorthair will love my newborn little girl due in July 2011. Coming up quick, wish me luck! -Mike
NicoleSmith on May 18, 2011:
Great hub, I love to read this article.
Myriah on April 11, 2011:
Me and my fiancé are expecting our first baby in about three months and have three dogs a 4yr pitbull lab mix, a 2yr pitbull Rottweiler mix, and a 2 1/2yr tea cup chihuahua. The chihuahua and pit/lab mix are very well behaved and we have had them since they were each about 6 weeks. But the pit/rotty mix doesn't listen very well we have been trying to train her but she is just so hyper, rough and jumps on everyone. We have a baby doll and she sits right in front of us while we are holding the doll when we tell her too. But I am still worried about her and the new puppy I don't even leave her alone with my chihuahua because she is too rough even though she doesn't really know she is doing it. Do you have any suggestions on what we should do to make her more mellow and not so rough when the baby gets here?
Whitney (author) from Georgia on September 29, 2010:
Why are you wanting to kick the dog out of the bed? Any reason? If the dog is already in the bed, it's not hurting anything after you bring the baby home. It may actually make the dog feel more uneasy with so many new changes.
If you're going to do it, start now, and don't make all the changes at once. The dog will definitely notice that when you bring home the baby, the dog gets booted down.
A friend of mine just had a baby, and she hasn't had any problems leaving him in the bed with her and with the bassinet next to the bed. At first the dog wanted to cry with the baby, but after a few weeks, he could care less.
Sandra on September 28, 2010:
What are the expert's thoughts on continuing to let your dog sleep with you after you bring home a newborn? We have a small 14 lbs Lhasa Apso (who is very spoiled by our love and affection) and is treated like a baby to us. When we bring home our newborn, we plan on having her in a bassinet for a few months in our room before getting her acclimated to her own crib /room. Should we consider training our dog now OR (how many months before the baby arrives) to not sleep with us? I welcome any / all feedback pertaining to this inquiry.
YVONNE on August 02, 2010:
Hi there, we are also in the process of adopting and have 2 bull terriers. Both i brought up with having children in mind and have tried to socialise them as much as possible with children. They both went to dog school and met with other dogs as well. However they don't really like other dogs or cats much! Our nephews are 4yrs and have been playing with them since they were young - obviously they are curious and 'bouncy' dogs, and have very loving natures.
I am not worried about them, as i read that we needed to start giving the dogs a little less attention and enforcing the basics of behaviours - next week i am going to introduce the baby doll and get them used to the baby things lying around.
I think you need to go with your instincts - never underestimate the power of the dogs jaws!!! If things don't feel right then make an alternative arrangement - as hard at it may be.
Natasha on July 31, 2010:
I own a 2 year old American Pitt Bull Terrior. I've had her since she was just a few days before 6 weeks old. And for the last two years she has been my baby. I'm expecting a real baby now and I am worried. My dog has zero human aggression but she doesn't not get along well at all with other animals. I am worried she is not going to understand that the baby is a baby and not some new pet. Shamrock (my pitt) has been spoiled by me and has had my whole heart for two years. Another concern is that she is going to get jealous of this new baby in moms life. She hasn't been around a newborn she lived with 3 kids two of them 2 yrs old and one 4. But that was when she was a pup. Although I love my dog so much I am scared for my unborn baby, my bf thinks that she will be fine with the baby and he is fighting to keep her, I dont want to get rid of her but how do you bring yourself to put your baby in that type of situation that something bad could happen to it? Please help me I'm getting so stressed and worried about all this. After all its like giving away your own child, as bad as that sounds. But she is my first dog I've ever had on my own and we are two peas in a pod. Thank you for taking time for reading this and I look forward to hearing back some input!! Natasha
Dori on July 09, 2010:
Thank you for this great advice. My Husband & I are in the process of adoption and I'm trying to ensure everyone's happy when our new baby comes home with us. We have 3 dogs, a 10 yr. old Rottweiler/Collie mix, 6 yr. old Black Lab/Doberman Mix & a 6 yr. old Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix. Only our Rottie has been around children really and it was when she was a puppy while I was a nanny. I think they'll all do well, I worry most about our Lab mix. She's very anxious and her tail gets going,it can be dangerous. So we'll work with her the most I think. I like the idea of the doll thing, I think I'll try it at home and see what they think. My Husband thinks the idea is weird!
Thanks again & Peace :)
Heather on May 25, 2010:
I have 3 dogs 2 big ones a also a chihuahua. We have 2 children already and one due in 2 weeks. We have gotten our dogs ready for a baby by getting all of the baby stuff put up a couple months ahead of time and getting them used to not jumping on me or the couch unless called up. They are all very good with kids and when i have brought them around babies all they do is smell them lick once and walk away or just look at the baby. None of them have ever showed any signs of aggression. My two big dogs are a Husky and a Black Lab/ Blue Heeler mix.
Whitney (author) from Georgia on March 18, 2010:
Definitely don't leave the baby with the dogs unattended. Otherwise, I'm not sure what exactly you are asking advice for.
Will the baby be staying with you? If not, it will be a little different than bringing home a child to live in the home.
Barbara Hooge on March 17, 2010:
My husband and I will be receiving our first grandbaby in September. We have three chihuahuas. Two seem well temper, one will lick you to death if you are not careful, but two seem to be snappy. Any suggested on how to handle these.
L Izett from The Great Northwest on January 15, 2009:
Great advice and I take these precautions to heart. Our dog was a rescue, but not from the pound, and he has snapped at my baby three times now. The vet rexxommends finding him a new home, but we know taking him to the pound will result him being put down and we know it won't be easy to find owners who will accept a dog that doesn't like kids in general and has back and knee problems. It is a fullt-time job watching my child and him together. Lately he's been spending a lot of time in his kennel because we don't trust him. Any hope for him? In your opinion...
amy jane from Connecticut on February 27, 2008:
Great hub, Whitney! The pictures are adorable too :)
surendra2007 from pune on February 26, 2008:
good information...u r a good hubber....