As I visit with new parents in the Via Christi NewLife Center, I’m frequently asked for suggestions on how they can introduce their new baby to their family dog.
The most important thing is to make it a positive experience for both the dog and the baby.
When you and your spouse go to the hospital to have your baby, that’s probably a disruption to the dog’s routine and the dog will really miss having you in the house.
So you can imagine how excited the dog will be when you return home. He’ll probably jump all over you to show you how much he missed you, so this isn’t the best time to introduce the new baby. Even the best-behaved dog is going to give you a jubilant welcome and won’t understand that there’s something new to the family dynamic.
You want the first meeting to be a positive experience since it can help set the tone for your dog’s relationship with the infant. Bringing the baby directly into the house will excite the dog and probably require you to scold him for getting too close to the baby.
One tip I give new parents is to have someone bring the baby’s blanket or an article of the baby’s clothing to the house while mom and baby are still in the hospital. This will help introduce the smell of the baby to the dog. That way, when the baby comes home, it’s not a new smell that will heighten the dog’s excitement level.
Once the baby is ready to be brought home, I recommend having one of the parents stay in the car with the baby, while the other parent goes into the house and greets the dog. This will enable the dog to express his excitement at seeing you after you’ve been gone a day or two, without having to worry about him harming the baby.
I would then have the parents switch out and let the other parent greet the dog without the baby.
After both parents have had a chance to greet the dog, this would be a good time to introduce the baby. Since the dog likely got all the excitement out ahead of time, he should be calmer and mostly just curious to meet the baby.
If you work to make sure the dog and baby’s relationship starts off on a positive experience, you can avoid some of the issues that can arise from a pet being jealous of a new family member.
As for letting your dog show their love for your infant, I wouldn’t recommend letting your dog lick any child younger than three months old since babies at that stage don’t have a very strong immune system.
When it comes to “safe sleep,” I would be cautious about having a puppy in the same sleep space as a young infant. Puppies are very deep sleepers and if they got near your child’s mouth or if the child rolled into them on accident, neither may wake up enough to make sure the other isn’t getting smothered.
I find that older dogs are probably going to be a little more protective and understand they need to be gentle around an infant.
I am a dog lover and think they can bring a lot to the family. With a little planning, you can help ensure a positive relationship for both your baby and your dog.