Human babies, we love them. Puppies, we love them as well. However, when you bring them together, there may be some problems if they aren’t prepared for the introduction. If your dog is used to being in the center of attention, introducing a baby to the household could be a major challenge for your dog to adjust to.
According to the canine trainer and host of Animal Planet’s It’s Me or the Dog, Victoria Stilwell, dogs and babies thrive on predictability. Hence, a newborn in the family brings dramatic changes not only to the parents’ life but also to the dog’s lifestyle.
In this guide, we will go through the most effective techniques to introduce both an adult dog and a puppy to a baby. Also, are you wondering which dog breed is the best for a family? Don’t worry, we’ve got that covered as well.
How to Introduce a Dog to a Baby
Think about it: If you were a dog, wouldn’t you feel confused to meet a tiny human that sounds, moves, and smells like nothing you have experienced before? Not only that but, all of a sudden, this tiny human is taking up all of your owner’s attention and time.
Fortunately, there are steps that owners can take in order to gradually introduce their baby to the dog and help the two form a special bond.
Preparation Before the Baby’s Arrival
In order to make the dog and baby best friends, there are a couple of steps you should take before the newborn arrives. Here is what you need to do:
Teach it a couple of commands.
Firstly, set some time aside for teaching your dog a few basic commands such as “sit,” “stay,” and “get down.” Also, the “come” command is very important, as you want your dog to come to you when you call out its name. Finally, don’t forget to reward your dog with plenty of treats throughout the training process.
Start changing the dog’s routine slowly.
To get the dog and baby to like each other, you will have to make gradual adjustments to the dog’s everyday routine. For example, you can start by changing the time you usually take it for a walk, and do this before the baby arrives. This way, the dog will not suspect that the changes are being made because of the baby. Also,if you plan on walking your pup with the baby, do some dry runs with an empty stroller to get your dog used to walking next to it calmly.
Reduce the playtime with your dog 2-3 weeks before the newborn arrives.
To increase the chances of your dog and kid getting along, you should gradually decrease the affection you give to your canine friend. If you don’t, the dog may feel confused as to why you are, all of a sudden, giving the baby more attention. A big mistake is to do this step at the last minute, because the dog will expect the same amount of affection you were giving it before the baby came into the household.
Let the dog listen to a tape recording of baby sounds.
Another cool tip to help dogs and infants get along is to play various baby sounds to your pup. Just pay attention to how the dog reacts. Also, once the baby is born, you can try bringing a piece of the newborn’s clothing to your dog before bringing the baby home, so your pup can get familiar with the scent.
Controlling Unwanted Dog Behavior With the New Baby
So, the baby is home. What should you do next to make sure everything goes smoothly? You should:
Take baby steps when introducing them to each other.
As soon as you step into your home with the newborn, make sure to greet your dog straight away, so it doesn’t start jumping out of excitement. Next, let the dog see, hear, and smell the baby from a safe distance, gradually allowing your pup to come closer if it feels comfortable enough.
The best way to introduce dogs is calmly and at their own pace.
Even though the majority of dogs adapt to a newborn rather quickly, it’s important to take your dog’s personality into account. If it would help you feel more comfortable, you can keep the dog on a leash during the first couple of introductions. This will allow your dog to approach you and the newborn but still let you choose how much you want your dog to interact with the baby. And don’t forget to always praise your dog and give it treats when it sniffs the baby.
If you feel comfortable enough, allow interaction without a leash.
According to expert tips about dogs with babies, you should always be nearby when your dog is approaching the baby. If the newborn suddenly cries, kicks, or screams, your pup could be startled and react inappropriately. Also, remember to give your pup plenty of attention whenever the baby is around.
Small Steps to Becoming Friends
Now you got to the point when your dog is comfortable around the newborn, and vice versa. But how do you help the two become best friends? Remember that nothing major happens overnight, so give it some time.
Teach the child to be nice to the dog.
Even though teaching the dog to be friendly with the child is usually the first step, the most important step in building a healthy relationship between a dog and kids is teaching the child to respect the animal.
Your child must understand that animals, just like humans, have boundaries. They are not toys but part of the family. If abused by a child, even the most docile dog can react. So, teaching your child not to pull, kick, sit on, or play with the dog in any inappropriate way is crucial.
Teach the child to read the dog’s body language.
Although introducing the dog to the baby properly means that this will happen naturally over time, it is important to teach the child some of the key dog body language signs. This will help the child recognize the dog’s limits, and that will keep both of them safe. Whether it’s giving the dog space when eating, or noticing when the play is getting too rough, the child needs to understand the body language of your dog, so they can act accordingly.
Puppies and Babies 101
So, we have covered the basics of introducing an adult dog to the infant, but what about puppies? How are puppies different from adult dogs, and how to properly introduce a baby pooch to a baby human?
Why They Get Along
Dog babies and human babies are much alike; they are small, they are curious, they want to play all the time, and they eat and poop a lot. Hence, it is only natural for them to become best friends almost instantly. Plus, studies have shown that having a puppy and a baby at the same time may decrease the child’s chance of developing an allergic reaction to canines as they become older.
However, as puppies have zero experience with babies and toddlers, young kids may look terrifying to puppies. Who wouldn’t be terrified if there was a tiny version of a human chasing them around, trying to pull their tail, and making unusual high-pitched sounds?
Also, remember, a puppy and a baby are, in a way, on the same level, which means the baby will likely want to play with the puppy’s toys or treats. Furthermore, as both baby and puppy are still testing each other’s limits, it’s essential for you as a parent to supervise them at all times.
Introducing Babies to Puppies
Even though the procedure is similar to introducing adult dogs to babies, there are a couple of differences with puppies. Here are the top strategies we recommend.
Allow puppies to explore.
Introducing babies and dogs to each other may be slightly different and easier, as an adult dog is more mature and more familiar with the home environment and human limits. Puppies, on the other hand, are clueless, and they usually require more exploration than adult dogs do. Hence, if you have just set up a nursery, grant the puppy access to the room, and let it explore it.
Furthermore, when it comes to the nursery, make sure to puppy-proof it, so the diaper pail or the baby toys do not get munched on. According to expert advice on dogs and children, try to manage access to certain rooms by installing a baby gate. This way, the puppy won’t feel left out, as it will still be able to see what’s going on in the room.
Introduce the puppy to baby smells and sounds.
Remember to familiarize the puppy with baby sounds and smells, and adjust its schedule before the baby arrives. Consider applying a bit of baby lotion or powder a couple of weeks before the arrival of the baby. This way, the puppy will associate the scent with a human it trusts and loves.
Just stay calm.
Most importantly, when introducing babies and puppies to each other, you should stay relaxed. If you are trying to introduce the two, and you see that the puppy is not in the mood, do not force it. Instead, take a break, and try again later.
However, if the puppy is interested in meeting the baby, allow it to sniff the baby and approach it. If the puppy tries to play with the newborn, don’t scold or scare it, as that could make the pup associate the baby with something bad. Be patient, pull it away calmly, and say “no” if it gets overexcited. Moreover, rewarding your pup with treats for good behavior will teach it how to behave around the baby.
Best Dogs for Babies
Any breed can be a perfect fit for any family, as long as proper training and treatment are exercised. Still, when talking about best dog breeds for families, there are some that have a history of being great with children.
There is a good reason why so many families own a Golden Retriever. They are extremely easy-going, patient, and calm, which makes them ideal pets for the youngest members of the family.
- Personality: Smart, loyal, friendly
- Weight: 65-55 pounds
- Height: 24-21.5 inches
- Life Expectancy: 10-12 years
Some would argue that the best dog breed for kids is the Beagle, due to its extremely relaxed and friendly nature. This breed is also highly adaptable, and it’s an excellent playmate for a kid of any age.
- Personality: Gentle, intelligent, and amiable
- Weight: 30-20 pounds
- Height: 15-13 inches
- Life Expectancy: 10-15 years
Even though this breed may look mean and tough, do not let the appearance fool you, as Bulldogs are extremely outgoing and caring animals. Also, they adore cuddles and attention.
- Personality: Brave, calm, friendly
- Weight: 50-40 pounds
- Height: 15-14 inches
- Life Expectancy: 8-10 years
What is the best children friendly dog breed? Certainly, a lot of people would agree on this one; according to many people’s positive experiences, the Poodle is one of the best breeds to have around your child. Not only are they an intelligent and highly-trainable breed, but they are also caring and exceptionally gentle with kids.
- Personality: Intelligent, loyal, active
- Weight: 70-40 pounds
- Height: over 15 inches
- Life Expectancy: 10-18 years
- Labrador Retriever
- Bichon Frise
- Australian Shepherd
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Pitbull and Baby
The reason why we did not include Pit Bulls in our list of best dog breeds for children is the unfortunate controversy surrounding the topic. However, we want to stress that families who decide to get a Pit Bull for their child are not making a mistake, as this breed can be an extremely loyal, caring, and friendly companion. With that in mind, here are a couple of reasons why you SHOULD get a pit bull.
They Love to Cuddle
Pit Bulls are dogs that are good with babies because they adore cuddling and playing. Pit Bull owners know that this breed makes a great companion on the couch, in the park, or anywhere else.
They Love People
Contrary to popular belief, this breed is very friendly, and they adore being around people. Not only are Pit Bulls people-oriented, but they are highly affectionate with children too. In fact, aside from protecting the farm, back in the day, they were considered nanny dogs. This is because parents would leave their Pit Bull and kids alone while they were working, knowing that their kids would be safe.
They are Very Active
If your child happens to be a bit more active, then a Pit Bull would be a perfect addition to your household, as this breed is highly athletic. In fact, pit bulls love long walks and are known for their agility.
Concerns and Myths About Pitbulls and Babies
One of the biggest problems in regard to pit bulls is the way they are sometimes trained. Unfortunately, their size, strength, and power makes them an easy target for individuals who want them for all the wrong reasons. Pit bulls learn quickly, and if they are trained to fight and attack, that can, unfortunately, become a part of their personality, which gives them a bad name.
If you’ve taken care of your pit bull, treated it well, and made sure it has grown up in a loving atmosphere, you shouldn’t worry about it any more than you would about any other dog breed.
Things to Consider With Dogs Around Babies
Is your dog obsessed with the baby?
If you notice that your canine friend is always near the baby, jumping around, barking, and just being a bit too energetic, keep in mind that every dog has a strong instinct to protect the pack. It is highly possible that the dog views the infant as a weaker member of the pack that requires protection.
On the other hand, the dog may also be confused if it hadn’t had the chance to get used to the baby. Or it could simply be overly excited about the new addition. This is why it’s important to help your dog understand that it needs to be calm around the baby.
Is your dog anxious around the baby?
Needless to say, the crying of a newborn can make the parents anxious, but it can do the same to the canine member of the family. In fact, dogs are extremely sensitive to loud sounds (their ears can detect frequencies up to 45,000-67,000 Hertz), and a crying baby can cause them extreme stress if they are not used to it. We recommend providing your dog with its own quiet space, so it can take a break when needed.
Owning a Dog While Pregnant
Dogs and babies are fun and all, but what if you have just begun your journey towards motherhood? Here are a couple of reasons why a family dog and pregnancy can go hand in hand.
Dogs help with asthma and allergies.
A long time ago, it was believed that dogs should not be around pregnant women, especially not in the same household. However, studies have shown that infants can actually build up their immunity thanks to the fur and dander that they come into contact through their mother.
Facts on dogs and babies reveal that dogs can improve the mother’s overall mood.
Naturally, with hormones going wild during pregnancy, most expecting mothers will appreciate having an extra thing to smile about. And what can be better than a puppy? In fact, countless studies have shown that pets are able to improve your mood. Remember, healthy and happy mothers equal healthy babies.
Dogs keep you active.
Pregnancy comes with its own challenges, and all that extra weight can result in less physical activity. Facts on dogs and newborns reveal that a 30-minute walk with the dog can help strengthen the heart, improve cognitive abilities, and even burn calories.
In fact, a study that examined more than 11,000 pregnant women found that one-quarter of the women who owned dogs were more likely to be engaged in physical activity at least once per week. An active mother usually means an easier pregnancy and faster birth.
Is it safe for dogs to be around babies?
Yes, as long as the dog is trained in a loving home and prepared for the new baby. Also, if proper steps are taken during the introduction, there is no reason for concern in regard to having a baby and dog under the same roof. As the child gets older, it’s important to continue teaching both the child and the dog to respect each other and each other’s personal space.
Why do dogs and babies get along?
The bond that forms between a dog and a human child is heartwarming. The reason why dogs are crazy in love with babies is due to the amount of time spent together playing or just relaxing. In fact, the two share a common need for attention, as well as a desire for a playmate. Studies have shown that babies and children who interact with dogs are happier, as the dogs can increase the level of dopamine and serotonin in the brain.
Do dogs understand babies?
We wish dogs could understand babies! We also wish dogs could talk to us and tell us what babies want when they are crying and waking us up in the middle of the night! On a more serious note, a study from 2009 revealed that babies do understand dogs. The study examined 6-month-old babies and their capacity to match the sounds of aggressive or friendly barks to corresponding photos of dogs. Surprisingly, they accomplished this on the first try!
How do dogs react to babies?
Based on the evidence of a study conducted by researchers at the University of New Zealand, the sound of a crying baby can significantly increase the cortisol levels in canines. This hints to the fact that dogs react to the cries of a baby in a similar way that humans do. Furthermore, some researchers claim that dogs can sense that a baby is harmless and vulnerable. Hence, if your pup is licking the baby or sniffing them, do not be alarmed, as this may be the dog’s way of checking the health of the baby.
Do dogs attack babies?
Even though it is rare for dogs to attack babies, infants are still at risk of getting hurt, but mostly by accident. Whether it’s the family pet or an unknown dog, it’s important that children are taught to read dogs’ body language and approach them properly.
Is it OK for a dog to lick a newborn?
This is debatable. If the dog is a family pet, has regular vet visits, is up to date on its vaccines, and has regular internal and external parasite treatments, there is very little danger of it transmitting any parasites to the baby. Still, you should be cautious with newborns, as dogs do spend a lot of time outside, and the immune system of newborn babies is still fragile.
Why is my dog nudging my baby?
Typically, a dog that is unfamiliar with the baby may want to sniff it, lick it, or even nudge it with its nose. In most cases, these actions are absolutely fine and completely normal for a dog that is trying to investigate this new tiny human.
What if a dog bites a baby?
This may not necessarily mean that the dog is aggressive towards the child, but it’s important to assess the situation. Babies wave their hands around and grasp at anything they can grab, so it’s very possible that your child may have grabbed a whisker or tail and hurt the dog. In this case, some additional training, assessment, and reintroduction may be necessary.
How often do dogs attack babies?
This is very rare, to say the least. However, the number can increase as babies get older and interact with the family dog more frequently. If neither the dog nor the child has been taught about personal space and proper behavior, the chances are further increased.
Toddlers and older children like to play rough with dogs, sometimes stepping too far into their personal space or crossing acceptable dog limits, potentially harming the dog. Usually, a dog will not bite without a reason, but even if it does happen accidentally, appropriate action should be taken to prevent future accidents.
Are pitbulls safe around babies?
In short, yes, pit bulls pose zero harm to children. In fact, pit bulls are no more aggressive than any other dog breed. Dog owners who have pit bulls know that they are loving and calm pets. Of course, parents still need to make sure the child is not provoking the dog, but this has nothing to do with the breed.
When should I introduce my dog to my baby?
As previously mentioned in this guide, you should start introducing the dog to the infant even before you bring your baby home. A good tip is to start preparing it for the baby arrival by introducing it to different baby sounds, scents, and making changes in its routine at least a few weeks before the introduction happens.
Dog owners and new parents should keep in mind that it is best for the dog to have these new experiences as soon as possible, since you don’t want the dog to associate the changes with the arrival of the infant. If everything goes well (and it will!), the pup will easily adapt to the new lifestyle.
Even though there may be some slight issues in the beginning, dogs and babies can live together in the same household perfectly. However, parents or guardians need to make sure the baby is not left unsupervised with the dog, as accidents can still happen. If you have a friend or family member who would benefit from this guide, please share it, and remember to leave a comment below.