Preparing Your Dog for Their First Encounter with a Baby

Just as our little ones hold a special place in our hearts, so do our furry friends. Naturally, we want both our children and our pets to develop a strong bond. But, like many relationships, it needs to start on the right foot. If you’ve recently welcomed a puppy or a new baby into your home, you might be wondering about the best way to introduce them. With help from our team at Purina, here’s your guide on how to nurture their budding friendship.

Introducing Dogs and Children

Understanding the Dog’s Perspective

Young children, with their sudden movements and high-pitched voices, can be intimidating to dogs. Also, kids might mistake cute and cuddly puppies for stuffed toys and handle them roughly. It’s essential to help your child see things from the puppy’s point of view and teach them to be gentle, understanding that the puppy has feelings too.

Deciphering Dog Body Language

So, just a heads up: young kiddos might not always get when a puppy’s feeling a bit out of sorts or nervous. They’re not the best at reading dog vibes and sometimes miss when a pooch is giving them the “please back off” look.

If you’re thinking of adding a furry buddy to the family, it’s pretty cool to get the hang of understanding doggo language. This way, you can spot when they’re not in the mood and keep things chill between them and the little ones.

Trust me, some doggy signals are low-key, but once you’re on the lookout, they’re easy to catch.

Here’s how you can tell if a dog’s feeling anxious:

  • Yawning (nope, not just sleepy!)
  • Licking their lips or nose
  • Showing a bit more of the whites of their eyes than usual
  • Ears taking a backseat
  • Trying to dodge the kiddo or anyone getting too close

Now, our tiny humans might miss these cues, so it’s on us to catch ’em. Remember, it’s not always about making sure a dog’s up for a hug or a game of tag. Sometimes they just want their space. Most times when there’s a little mishap with a child and a dog, it’s not ’cause no one’s watching; it’s ’cause we miss those sneaky signs.

A good chat with the kids? Let ’em know that dogs aren’t toys. No poking, squeezing, or tugging. And keep voices calm and sweet around them. Oh, and a sleeping dog? Let them have their beauty sleep – waking them might just get a grumpy bark.

Preparing for the New Arrival

Little girl with a dog

Setting Ground Rules

In preparation for the arrival of your new canine companion, it’s prudent for the family to establish foundational guidelines. This not only aids your children in comprehending the anticipated behavior but also aligns with the training and boundaries you’d like to set for your new pet.

Instead of the directive, “Avoid raising your voice around the dog,” consider phrasing it as, “Maintain a calm and subdued tone around the canine,” or perhaps employ the commonly used pedagogical phrase, “Utilize only indoor voices in the dog’s presence.”

Instead of the command, “Refrain from poking, squeezing, or pulling the dog,” the guideline could be articulated as, “Pet the dog gently and only upon the dog’s approach.” By instructing children to interact with the dog only when it approaches and to cease when the dog moves away, you’re fostering a respect for the dog’s personal boundaries. This also promotes trust between the child and the dog.

Rather than simply stating, “Do not disturb a resting dog,” it could be more instructive to say, “When the dog is resting, it provides an opportune time for you to engage in…” followed by suggestions of some favored child activities. Ensuring a designated safe haven for your dog is of paramount importance.

Educating your children to respect this space, especially during the dog’s resting periods, is equally critical. However, denoting it as a “restricted area” might pique a child’s curiosity. Thus, presenting them with an engaging alternative would be beneficial.

First Steps for Puppy and Child Introductions

When adopting a canine, whether a young pup or an older dog, it is typically customary for prospective owners to have had a preliminary meeting with the animal. This introduction might occur at the breeder’s establishment or via a rescue organization.

For puppies, particularly those unaccustomed to the presence of young children, the demeanor and behavior of children can be quite unfamiliar. Children, in their exuberance, often exhibit unpredictable movements, possess unique scents, and can emit a range of peculiar sounds. These characteristics might be perceived by the puppy as startling, intimidating, or even enticing.

For a child, the acquisition of a new puppy is a momentous occasion, brimming with anticipation. However, their enthusiasm can inadvertently alarm or unsettle their newfound companion.

Such preliminary interactions are instrumental in fostering trust, demonstrating to the canine that their new environment is benevolent and secure. This foundation of trust is quintessential for nurturing a harmonious rapport. It’s imperative to underscore the importance of a composed and gentle demeanor during these interactions.

To facilitate this, it’s advisable for children to refrain from holding cherished toys or consuming food during the initial meeting. If circumstances permit, having two adults present—one attending to the dog and the other to the child—can be advantageous.

In households with multiple children, staggering the introductions can alleviate potential stress, ensuring the comfort of all parties involved, particularly the dog.

The best way to introduce puppies and children are as follows:

  1. For the inaugural interaction, select a centralized location within a room where the young canine does not perceive confinement. This positioning should allow the puppy a perceived route for withdrawal, should the need arise.
  2. Instruct your child to approach the puppy laterally and at a measured pace. The puppy should be accorded the autonomy to close the distance, ensuring it does not feel pressured into a potentially intimidating scenario.
  3. During their initial encounter, permit the puppy to acquaint itself with your child autonomously, facilitating an environment where it can employ its senses to ascertain the child’s nature and subsequently deduce the benign nature of this smaller human.
  4. When both the puppy and child appear tranquil and at ease, it’s permissible for your child to present the dorsum of their hand, with fingers retracted, for the puppy to investigate olfactorily. This posture minimizes potential apprehension in the puppy and concurrently reduces any propensity for the child to impulsively clutch the puppy, ensuring fingers remain distanced from potential gnawing.
  5. If the puppy manifests signs of contentment during the interaction, your child may, with gentility, caress the cranial and cervical regions of the puppy, abstaining from more delicate zones such as the auditory appendages, caudal extension, pedal extremities, and ventral region.
  6. Should signs of over-exhilaration emerge from either party, employ containment methods like infantile barriers or designated canine enclosures to instate a separation. It would be judicious to reconvene the interaction once a more serene ambiance is achieved.

By ensuring these introductory sessions are placid, meticulously overseen, and executed with the utmost care, both the juvenile canine and your offspring can incrementally foster mutual assurance. For children of suitable age, it’s propitious to involve them in activities encompassing the canine’s ambulation, grooming, and developmental training as the puppy matures, fortifying the bond interlinking the two.

Teaching dog skills to older children

Imparting specific foundational skills not only ensures their safety but also augments their appreciation for canines throughout their lifespan. These competencies, once acquired, are indelible and equally pertinent for interactions with one’s own canine.

The crux of this instruction hinges on instilling an understanding of consent within your child. It is paramount to emphasize that mutual desire is essential; the dog’s willingness to be touched is as consequential as the child’s inclination to engage.

Regrettably, many often engage with dogs, devoid of contemplation regarding the dog’s consent or even recognizing the capability of canines to proffer or withhold such approval. Canines possess a constrained array of signals to manifest their dissent, with some of these cues having the potential for harm and detriment to trust.

Primarily, it is of utmost importance to instruct children to refrain from approaching unfamiliar canines, irrespective of the owner’s assurances. Just as they are educated to exercise caution with unknown individuals for safety reasons, a parallel prudence should be observed with dogs.

In convivial settings, such as interactions with acquaintances or relatives (or even one’s own canine), discerning the dog’s consent is straightforward. Thus, such a principle is facile to disseminate and instil in others.

Introducing a Dog to a Baby

As you prepare for your upcoming addition, it’s essential to also ready your dog for the change. By adhering to our guidance, you’ll facilitate a smoother transition for both of you, ensuring a positive initial meeting.

Establishing Boundaries Before Baby Arrives

Before your little one’s arrival, start setting boundaries with your dog. Introduce baby gates at essential entrances and train your dog to stay as you move between rooms. Offering them a treat or toy can help make this separation more pleasant. These preparations ensure that, when the time comes, your dog can remain close yet at a safe distance, enabling them to observe the baby and your activities without feeling isolated.

Utilizing the Crate for Smooth Transitions

For dogs accustomed to crates, consider placing a spacious crate in your primary living area. This allows your dog to comfortably retreat while you tend to the baby, ensuring they still feel included in family dynamics. It’s a good idea to practice this setup before your baby’s arrival to maintain consistency in their routine.

Prepping Pooch for Baby-Centered Routines

Start adjusting your dog to a baby-centric schedule, like feeding and nap times, well before your little one arrives. Familiarize them with baby-related items, like strollers, to reduce surprises later. The more you practice these changes ahead of time, the smoother the transition will be amidst the whirlwind of baby’s homecoming.

Reinforcing Training Before Baby’s Arrival

As you count down to your baby’s arrival, revisit basic training with your dog, like discouraging jumping and reinforcing good sitting behavior. Especially when you’re holding your baby, these behaviors will be crucial. If you face challenges in reinforcing these habits, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional trainer or behaviorist ahead of your due date.

When your baby’s is born

baby with a puppy

When you bring your baby home, follow our practical suggestions to help your dog adjust to their newest family member:

Introducing Baby’s Scent Early

If your baby’s birth happens at a hospital, consider letting your dog get a whiff of an item (like a blanket) that has the baby’s scent on it even before you bring your little one home.

Maintaining Consistency with Your Dog

Despite the whirlwind of welcoming a new baby, aim to keep your interactions with your dog consistent. It’s essential they continue to receive your attention, regular walks, and playtime. Neglecting or making abrupt changes can lead to behavioral issues, especially if they feel sidelined or ignored.

Balancing Baby and Dog Time

While attending to your baby, ensure your dog has engaging toys to keep them occupied. Whenever your baby naps, take a moment to play or bond with your dog. Their affection hasn’t changed; they still crave your attention and love.

Your Dog’s Transition with the New Arrival

In the early stages of welcoming your baby, if you find it challenging to provide adequate exercise for your dog, consider hiring a dog walker or seeking a family member’s assistance to either walk your dog or care for your child. This period can be overwhelming, but by engaging your dog in programs like “Dog Brain Training,” you can effectively prepare them for the changes. With proper guidance and training, both your newborn and your dog can cultivate a deep and lasting friendship.

Wanna know more about dog behavior?

Explore these informative blogs to deepen your understanding and enhance your relationship with your canine friend:

Each blog offers insights, tips, and techniques from professionals and experienced dog owners alike. Learn how to communicate with your dog, understand their needs, and establish a relationship built on trust and mutual respect.

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