Expert Tips for Introducing Dogs to a New Baby

Having a new baby in your home is stressful for everyone — including your dog. Here are some insights for easing the transition.

• Never leave a small child alone with a dog, even if they are very familiar with each other. This is especially important if you have more than one dog, because a pack mentality could develop among the dogs. The baby’s room should be off-limits to your dog.

• Children should be taught from a very young age that dogs must be treated respectfully. That means no hitting, tail pulling, or riding. No matter how docile your dog seems to be, all of these acts can aggravate a dog and lead to conflict.

• A common mistake new parents make is to put the dog outside or in another room to separate it from the baby. However, this causes conflict. Dogs want to be a part of the family in the same way they were before the baby arrived. Instead of keeping the dog completely away, create barriers with playpens and baby gates, so the entire family can be in the common areas of the home together.

• Closely supervise your dog around your new baby and provide calm, quiet praise when he or she behaves properly. This could be as simple as the dog calmly sniffing the baby’s clothing or blanket or enjoying a toy in the same room as the baby. You should praise this behavior with a soft voice and a gentle pat. By praising your dog, you are reinforcing that the baby is a positive thing. Dogs will quickly learn to repeat praised behavior.

• A new baby can be stressful. But remember that when your dog is around, it will pick up on your emotions and body language. So when your baby is crying, it might be a great time to put your dog in a crate or another room to remove it from a stressful situation. This will allow you to focus your attention on the needs of your baby.

• Before you bring your new baby home, have you dog checked by your vet to ensure there aren’t any unknown issues, such as an injury which can make a dog more sensitive and aggressive. Consider getting your dog spayed or neutered, since this cuts down on aggression in dogs of both genders. Most dog bites come from unneutered dogs.

• Research shows that dog aggression decreases the more a dog is walked and exercised. This will also keep your dog healthier and is a great family activity that can eventually include your children.

• Although some dog breeds are statistically more likely to be aggressive than others, never assume that because you have a “friendlier” breed, caution needn’t be taken when introducing your dog to your baby. Each dog is an individual, just like humans.