Introducing our dogs to the new baby, Part 1
When we found out we were pregnant with our first daughter, I was a little concerned about how our dogs would adjust. One of them was my first service dog, and the other one was in training. So, needless to say, they went everywhere with us, and we spent a lot of our time focused on them. They slept in the bed, rode in the back seat, ate human food, and sat on the furniture with us. In a way, they were almost human.
To ease the transition, we decided on a home birth. We thought I could labor in the house instead of disappearing for hours and returning with a new little thing taking up all of our attention. Having my service dogs there through labor and delivery also helped me cope.
Preparing for baby #2
For our second daughter, we had to go to the hospital. We knew that ahead of time, so we began preparing our four dogs (yes, we added two more!) for the big change. We exposed them to children at the park, we trained them to sleep at the bottom of the bed, and we played baby crying noises. (You can find these on YouTube, believe it or not!). They also met a 4-month-old and could smell and see the baby without getting too close. We worked really hard with them on commands like “easy” and “gentle.”
We also brought out the baby toys so the dogs could get used to the vibrating bouncer noise, the music from the swing and its awkward movement. I was a genius and tried to introduce our 1-year-old Great Dane to diapers by leaving them on the floor in my bedroom. Unfortunately, that experiment resulted in diaper snow and a costly trip to the store to buy more diapers.
The last phase was the hospital. My parents agreed to watch three of the dogs, and my service dog came with us to the hospital. When my parents came to the hospital to visit, I gave them a blanket that Vyctoria had been wrapped in to take home. The dogs had about twelve hours with it before we came home. My service dog was in training when our first daughter was born, so she easily adjusted in the hospital with little to no effort.
Introducing our dogs to the new baby, Part 2
When we came home, my husband took our daughter, and I went in and gave the dogs lots of attention. I am their favorite, so after our time together, the dogs were in a great mood when he walked in the door. I had treats ready, and when the dogs sniffed the car seat I told them “good dog” and gave them each treats. The first day we just let them see and smell but not get too close. Then, one at a time, they could sit on the couch next to me very calmly. I would feed her, and they would watch. The other dogs waited in another room to control their excitement.
By then end of the week, we had successfully introduced our pack to the new little one.
Our path to success
For us, the following tips made the transition successful:
- Giving the dogs attention leading up to the birth and taking time to focus on them once the baby came home (walks are key).
- Bringing home a baby item for the dogs to smell before the baby came home.
- Desensitizing pups to baby items and toys weeks before the due date.
- Increasing time spent on basic obedience training in the second and third trimesters so the dogs knew to listen to us and were fresh on all commands. We didn’t want to be up all night with a newborn and training a dog at the same time.
- Having the dog’s favorite person enter the house first to spend a few minutes with happy pups before bringing the baby in.
- Giving the dogs special treats after positive interactions with the new baby (string cheese, chicken, tuna).
- Staying connected to the dogs. They were there first and still deserve attention and love. They can feel left out or jealous, too.
I hope these tips help you as you add to your family. We have three Great Danes and a Pit Bull-Shepherd mix who all beautifully accepted our little one into our home and our family. If you need any more tips or have more advice to offer families, please feel free to share!