I was lucky – my Beagle-mix (Chloe) adjusted to our new baby well. In fact, she would scratch at the bedroom door every time my daughter, Sophie, cried – just in case I was able to tune out the walls (not a chance!). Chloe would also leave my warm bed to lie on the couch with us during those middle-of-the-night feedings.
However, I’m not sure Chloe would have welcomed home baby Sophie with eager licks and wags had I not taken the time during those (long) nine months of pregnancy to prepare her for our expanding family.
Here are some of the same times I used, and ones you can use as well, for helping your puppy adjust to sharing the spotlight:
Create A New Routine
Babies have a tendency to run on their own schedule, especially during the early months when they still have their days and nights mixed up. Veterinarian Karen D. Willinger, V.M.D., PhD., suggests “getting your dog on a schedule near what you expect it to be when the baby arrives.”
Dr. Willinger goes on to say, “for example, because babies fall asleep easily in a stroller, you can plan walks with the dog around the baby’s naptimes, walking the dog while the baby sleeps in the stroller.”
Positive Reinforcement Goes A Long Way
Another suggestion from the experts is to help your dog associate the baby with good things. Before the baby arrives, have another family member bring home a blanket from the hospital for your pup to sniff, which will help acclimate it to the smells of the baby (some pleasant and others not so much) that will soon fill the house. Try giving your pup its favorite toy or treat while you bathe, feed or rock the baby.
Meet & Greet
First and foremost, never leave your dog alone with the baby! Supervision is necessary for everyone’s safety – not to mention peace of mind – because a newborn baby’s jerky muscle reactions can trigger a dog’s prey drive (the instinct to chase and kill animals).
When the introduction day finally arrives, take it slow. Dr. Willinger suggests keeping your dog on a leash first, allowing it to sniff the baby while you watch for signs of fear or aggression. Signs of aggression include pinned-back ears, growling, snarling, or loud, forceful barking. In contrast, a fearful dog will whimper, tremble or quiver, and tuck its tail between its legs.
With proper preparation and positive reinforcement, both of your babies can learn to share the stage happily. “Remember,” Dr. Willinger says, “puppy and baby interaction is all about what you – as the dog owner and new parent – are comfortable with.”