Having a baby, especially for the first time, can be an exciting, rewarding yet challenging experience. Many couples begin their journeys together with a pet before having children. When there’s a dog in the house, it truly becomes like a member of the family. Animals act on instinct, no matter how ‘‘human ’’ they might seem. Instinct drives all animal behavior. This is why the only accurate answer you can give someone who has asked if your dog bites is this: He or she has never bitten anyone before. You cannot unequivocally say that your dog doesn’t bite. If a certain instinct kicks in, in a specific situation, your dog might bite someone. You just never know. This alone is a good reason for keeping in mind some tips to welcome a newborn with a dog in the house.
There’s not necessarily a reason to re-home your pet simply because you’re having a baby. However, it would be foolish not to recognize that there are certain risks involved. Having an animal that acts on instincts sharing a house with an infant who is defenseless means that parents must be diligent. It is a bad idea to adapt the ”Sweet-fido-would-never-hurt-a-fly” mindset. In fact, it could be a recipe for disaster. And, if tragedy should strike, such parents would never forgive themselves. Instead, there are things you can do to welcome a newborn with a dog in the house that keeps your baby safe and lets your dog become accustomed to the newest family member.
Your dog is lovable but pets are unpredictable
The bond between dog owner and dog can be very strong. Just watch the touching videos online of military service dogs lying by their handlers’ graves to understand that loyalty and companionship run deep. This might be especially true for you, if you have had your dog since before you got married. You might know a lot about your dog. For instance, is there a certain way that he or she likes to be petted? Does your dog have a favorite food? One thing you don’t know yet, however, is how your dog will react to a newborn baby living in the house.
Dogs are generally highly sensitive to change. They can sense the slightest change in the ambience of your home. For instance, if you have a party, you might notice your dog hiding under a bed. Your dog might show signs that he or she can sense if you have had a bad day. Always remember that when you welcome a newborn with a dog in the house, there is going to be a LOT of changes in your daily lifestyle. Simply having a baby (even without a dog in the house) changes your life. Your dog is going to pick up on that. Some of these changes, in fact, will directly affect your dog. And, only time will tell how he or she will react.
Babies learn to grasp and reach for things very quickly
It’s a delightful time for new parents to watch the daily changes that take place in their newborn’s life. The first smiles or first belly-laugh, and other milestones, such as reacting to his or her name, learning to roll over, etc., are joys of parenthood, to be sure. As a child grows from infant to toddler and onward in life, there are developmental milestones to watch for that help you determine if he or she is cognitively and physically healthy. For instance, many newborns will grasp your finger within hours of their birth. By six months of age, a healthy baby becomes a reaching, grabbing machine!
To welcome a newborn with a dog in the house in the safest manner possible, you must be ready and waiting for this developmental milestone, which may happen long before six months, as well. Chances are, at some point, one of the things your baby reaches out to grab is going to be your dog’s fur, nose or ears! Some dogs have a strong instinct to bite if a human makes a sudden move toward their face or head. This is one of MANY reasons that you should never, no matter what, for ANY reason, leave your baby unattended around the family pet.
Take precautions to welcome a newborn with a dog in the house
The following list shows safety precautions you can take to welcome a newborn with a dog in the house, which you’ll want to continue implementing, even as your child grows older:
- Make sure that either your baby or your dog are with you if you leave the room. NO EXCEPTIONS!
- When holding your infant near your dog, keep yourself taller than the animal. Never place your child in a close face-to-face position with your pet.
- Do NOT give your baby your dog’s toys to play with and vice versa.
- Introduce your dog and baby slowly; it can take several months for a dog to become acclimated to having a newborn in the house.
- Let the first introductions take place on neutral ground, AWAY from home.
- Allow your dog to sniff your newborn’s blanket before bringing it into close proximity of your infant.
Remember that dogs are territorial, some much more so than others. This is why it’s a good idea to introduce your dog and baby for the first time on neutral ground, such as a nearby park or parking lot. Keep in mind that, if you were bringing another dog or cat into your household, you would understand that it could take months for the two animals to become acquainted. It’s no different for your dog and your newborn! Give the dog time to become comfortable.
Keep giving your dog the attention that he or she deserves
When you welcome a newborn with a dog in the house, you’re going to be tired! It is just a fact of life. Even if you are blessed with a baby who starts sleeping through the night right away (Do they exist? lol) simply taking care of an infant all day, every day, is tiring. It’s a good kind of tired, but it’s tiring. This means that you might not feel like taking your dog for that jog the two of you usually go on after supper.
Here’s the thing. You should try. Try to muster up the energy to do it anyway. Dogs are creatures of habit. This is why we can train them to do things. If you typically take your dog for a walk at 6 p.m., you might find him or her waiting at the door, leaving you to wonder if the animal knows how to read a clock on the wall! To help your dog adapt to having a new family member in the house, try to keep as close to your usual schedule, as possible. Also, make sure to spend time with your dog, playing or exercising or cuddling, without including your baby, and vice versa. Studies show that canines exhibit human-like jealous behavior, so keep this in mind.
Additional things to help keep your baby safe with a dog in the house
Right from the start, you’ll want to model right behavior for your baby regarding how to interact with your family pet. It’s not enough to say, ‘‘No, no,’’ if your baby reaches for your dog in a way that is not safe. You’ll want to go a step further to demonstrate the safe way to touch the dog. You might even consider practicing with a stuffed animal dog before letting your baby touch your real dog. The following list includes things that are never safe, even if you have seen other people allow their children to do them:
- Do not let your child ride your dog like a pony!
- Never allow your child to hit your dog.
- No tail pulling either!
- Do not let your child play tug-of-war games with your dog; in fact, it’s best for adults to avoid this game, too.
- Don’t let your child attempt to take anything away from your dog, such as a toy, treat or food. Instead, as your son or daughter grow older, you can teach him or her how to instruct your dog to drop something on command or to sit, come, etc.
- If you are sleeping, do not provide the dog access to your baby.
If you have been used to sleeping with your dog, you might consider having him sleep in a different room, if the baby is in your room. When you welcome a newborn with a dog in the house, try to remember that you are a family, but the dog is not a human and does not have critical thinking skills and reasoning abilities like a human. It acts on instinct. You have no way of knowing what might happen while you are asleep, which is why it is best to keep dog and baby separated if you or your spouse are not awake and nearby.
Something that you might not want to hear
Sadly, many children, including infants, have suffered severe and, sometimes, fatal injuries due to their family pet attacking them. While it is not a pleasant thing to read, please take time to review the links on this page. While some dog breeds are naturally more aggressive than others, attacks on children or infants are not limited to specific breeds. ANY dog is capable of biting your newborn, toddler or older child, at any time.
If your dog demonstrates behavior to suggest that he or she is not going to do well around kids, you have several options. You might consider enrolling in behavioral training classes. Or, you might find your dog a new home. As heartbreaking as that would be, it is far more important to keep your baby safe if there is a noticeable risk. For instance, if you have witnessed your dog snapping at, baring teeth, growling or biting at an adult, a child or at you, then it might be best to find your dog a new home. Human safety must always be the priority.
Babies and dogs are great blessings in life
In my personal experience, I have raised 10 children. During the span of their childhoods, our family has had four different dogs. At one time, two of the four lived with us together. In fact, they were sibling dogs. I have navigated the process of welcoming a newborn with a dog in the house numerous times. I am happy to say that, most times, things went very well. We did have one dog who was the sweetest, most lovable fluff guy you would ever want to meet (Husky Border Collie). He was so affectionate and wonderful with kids, UNLESS you tried to take his food or treat away, then he would snap.
We noticed this early on when he snapped at our daughter, who was about nine years old at the time. He never exhibited any other aggressive behavior toward humans. While some dog experts might disagree with how we handled it, we chose to simply teach our children never to approach him while he was eating. He was fine while you were filling his food or giving the treat. In fact, he would obediently SIT, until you told him that he could approach his food. But, once there, he did not want anyone near, until he had finished. We taught our children this and also made sure that every guest to our home was aware of it, as well. Thankfully, we never had a bad experience.
One sad situation
We did have to find a new home for a sweet Springer Spaniel that we had, though. It was a dog we rescued, literally off the middle of a highway. Well, he chose us. He jumped into our car! Hence, we named him RASCAL. lol However, as time went on and we had a newborn in the house, he became very aggressive. He snapped at kids in the neighborhood (We later learned that some boys were teasinging him on their way home from school.) and would snap and growl at ME, especially when I was holding my baby. I had trained Rascal and he was always obedient to me. We ultimately made the difficult decision to send him to a new home with a farmer who had lots of land and room for him to run free. The safety of our baby was the priority.
Expose your dog to your baby in the womb
Dogs are highly sensitive to electromagnetic fields of energy and to smells, many of which we are not even aware of at the time. This is why I think it is a great idea to begin exposing your dog to your baby while he or she is still in the womb! Let your dog cuddle near your growing belly. Babies in the womb can hear the outside world, although it is muffled. However, spending lots of time near your dog while you are pregnant means that your newborn will recognize the sounds when the dog barks or howls, etc.
Enjoy your dog AND your baby
If you are expecting a baby, I congratulate you and wish you well! I also encourage you to thoroughly research the topic of how to safely welcome a newborn with a dog in the house. If you have a dog that is from an aggressive or guarding breed, such as Rottweiler, Belgian Malinois, Pit bull or Weimaraner or any of these breeds that are notoriously NOT good around kids, you will want to take extra precautions.
Safety is the most important factor when it comes to having babies and dogs in the same household. With love, care and diligence, more times than not, you can have a healthy, happy family life with kids and pets, together!