As a newborn photographer, a mum of 5 children and a dog owner, I can understand the significance of those precious moments shared between your children and a family pet. Watching my toddler throwing a ball for my dog is wonderful to behold, especially as Barney dog knows to be super gentle with Jacob. However, even though I had 3 older children before I got Barney, I knew how important it was to introduce Barney to my new baby in a well-considered and planned way. Here are a few tips I picked up on the way on how to increase the bond between your newborn and dog, to create a safe and harmonious environment;
Creating a positive environment
Before a new baby is introduced to your dog, it’s crucial to prepare your dog beforehand. Start by gradually exposing them to the new sights, sounds and smells associated with a baby. Let them sniff the crib and pram. Give them lots of praise and cuddles so they associate these new items with positive experiences.
Reinforce obedience training
A well-behaved dog is more likely to adapt smoothly to a new baby. Focus on commands such as “sit”, “stay” and “leave it”. By reinforcing these commands you can ensure you will have better control of your dog’s behaviour during interactions with the baby. We found “leave it” to be especially helpful when our dog Barney wanted to investigate our baby’s soft toys or the squeaky ball in the sensory box.
Maintain your dog’s routine
Dogs thrive on routine, so maintaining their regular schedule is important. If you struggle to get out once your baby is home, a dog walker might help you to make sure your dog still gets their exercise time. A well-exercised dog is a contented dog, and they tend to be calmer and more relaxed in the home as a result. I used to try to walk Barney without the baby sometimes so he could still enjoy one on one time without competing for my attention with a baby.
Create a safe space for your dog
Before bringing your dog home, designate an area of the home that will be a sanctuary for your dog. It could be a separate room or a cosy corner with their bed, toys and water bowl, and will serve as somewhere your dog can retreat to for some peace and quiet. My dog especially appreciated this when my babies were crying with colic.
When you finally introduce your dog to your baby, try to keep the atmosphere calm and controlled. Have another family member hold the baby so you can greet your dog first. Allow your dog to sniff and investigate the baby from a safe distance, rewarding them with praise and treats for good behaviour. Be careful not to get the dog too excited with the praise though! After the initial meeting, always supervise interactions between your dog and baby. Using a dog lead or baby gate can create a physical barrier. Gradually increase the proximity and duration of these supervised interactions, monitoring the dog’s behaviour and using lots of positive reinforcement.
It is important to always respect your dog’s boundaries, and watch their body language for signs of stress or discomfort. As your baby starts to crawl and then walk, you will need to be considerate of your dog’s personal space and teach your baby not to pull tails or crawl over the dog. We teach our children to use “kind hands”, and demonstrate the correct way to stroke our dog. An older or an unwell dog will have less tolerance for a moving baby, and will probably appreciate having a sanctuary.
In conclusion, introducing your dog and new baby is a beautiful moment, but a bit of planning beforehand, and a lot of consideration for your dog’s needs can make for a much more harmonious friendship. When your new baby and fur baby do eventually meet, have someone on hand to photograph the tender moment!