While you may be expecting your first human baby, if you're like a lot of new parents you already have a "fur baby" at home.
Our pets are often so attuned to us, they can get a sense for the changes to come. Making a plan for helping your dog adjust to your baby as part of your postpartum plan can really help make the transition home with your newborn go more smoothly.
While You're Waiting For Baby
Focus your final weeks and months before your baby arrives on setting clear "rules, boundaries, and limitations" (thanks Cesar!) with your pup. You'll be ahead of the curve if your dog trusts you as his "pack leader" and is getting the regular exercise, discipline, and affection she needs from you. You can also begin reinforcing boundaries on your dog's access to baby's space. You might want to establish some boundaries around the nursery or access to furniture or other rooms of the house as you prepare for baby's birth. (If you have concerns about your dog's behavior, always consult a professional to help you ensure a safe transition.)
Before baby arrives is also a great time to think about logistics. What are your plans for your dog while you are in labor or at the hospital or birth center? If you are planning to board him, is he up to date on required vaccinations? Does the boarding facility have any other requirements you need to take care of before you can boarding? Do you have a local dog walker that can come over to help lighten that load while you are recovering and/or adjusting to life with your baby at home? Get a head start on the logistics if you can - or find a helpful friend, family member, or professional that can step in to support you.
You can also start to familiarize your dog to all the baby "stuff" as you get your home and baby's nursery ready. Let her explore baby's space and gear within the boundaries you set.
Once Baby Is Born
Before you introduce your baby to your dog, you may consider having another family member or friend bring a blanket or onesie baby has used to your dog. He can get a good sniff at the new baby smells, and may not be as surprised when you do make the introduction.
Introducing Your Dog to Baby
It's the moment of truth! Finally time to introduce your "fur baby" to his little brother or sister. We look to "dog whisperer" Cesar Millan's expertise on this. Cesar's advice is to carefully plan and control the introduction. First ensure your dog has had a good walk, draining all her energy, and is in a calm-submissive state before returning to the house. The parent with the baby should also be in a calm state, and allow the dog to meet the baby through scent only at a safe and respectful distance. The baby doesn't need to be brought close to the dog on this first meeting for it to be successful. Remember, your dog's sense of smell is far stronger than ours, and he learns about the world around him through scent first, then sight and sound. Take time to assess how your dog is reacting to the new scent and baby's presence, and gradually allow more and closer access. Always remain calm but assertive in enforcing the boundaries you wish to set on your dog's closeness to and access to your baby.
By planning ahead, you'll be helping to set your pet up for success, setting the foundation for an everlasting friendship between your two babies.