Introducing your newborn baby to your fur babies
100kg+ of dog and a newborn baby. Sounds like a tricky combination, doesn’t it? Well we’re here to tell you that, with a little planning and a bit of patience, it can work! How do we know? PetRescue staffer, Laura, has just been through it herself. In her own words, Laura shares the best advice she followed and the journey she took to prepare for baby’s arrival.
The first question I had was, where do we start?
Knowing that a seriously life changing event was about to happen, not only for us, but for our two rescue dogs Woosha and Indi, my husband and I were keen to start preparing our dogs for our new arrival during my pregnancy.
Woosha and Indi had already met some children, but only in passing at the park or on a walk, so we began asking our friends with kids if it would be ok if our dogs could meet them. Most of our friends have pets, so they were more than happy to oblige and Woosha and Indi began to interact with a few more little bodies. Of course, they were very intrigued by these small humans and loved having a sniff (and a sneaky lick)!
We also took this opportunity to ask friends and family with dogs and children how they managed introductions, what they did to prepare their home and if there was anything they wish they’d done differently. This was very insightful for us. Not only did it confirm the plans we’d already made were good plans, it also opened our eyes to things we hadn’t even thought of. The more people you can ask, the better!
What house rules should we set? And when do we start putting them in place?
Our dogs spend time inside with us, and this is something we wanted to continue when our baby was born, but we knew we needed to put some rules in place to ensure everyone was happy and comfortable.
When invited into the family room, we created a specific area for Woosha and Indi to sit so they could start to learn where their space was. This meant they would still be able to spend family time with us, but could also keep a bit of distance between our dogs and our baby while he was still quite small. 100kg+ of dog takes up a lot of room! Another way to do this is to invest in a playpen for your baby, so that you create a safe and happy space for all.
Baby gates were also placed in our house so that we could create some separated areas. As mentioned before, we still wanted our dogs to have access to the inside of the house at any time they wanted, so putting baby gates up gave us peace of mind that everyone would be comfortable and safe while familiarising ourselves with our new arrival.
I’d previously heard about the importance of teaching dogs to wait at a door when it is opened. The reason being that they can rush through at the same time as a child and potentially knock them over. Being large dogs, Woosha and Indi have a lot of power and can get very excited when it’s time to go outside for a play, so we began teaching them to wait at the door until called. It didn’t work too well at the beginning (they were just too keen to go for a walk) but with some persistence they began to understand the cues and we were slowly making progress!
How should we manage the first introduction?
The arrival of our baby was very exciting and special, and little did Woosha and Indi know that their newest sibling would be coming home in a few days time. During our stay in hospital, my husband would go home each day and take with him a blanket or some clothing that our baby had been wearing. He would take it to our dogs and let them sniff and smell the scent, with the aim that they could familiarise themselves with the new smell before we bought our baby home.
And what should we do when we bring baby home?
Introductions between our baby and dogs were done slowly, and ran over the course of a week so that Woosha and Indi had a bit of time to take it all in.
Our dogs were very excited to see me after five days in hospital, and they were very inquisitive of this new creature that had come back with us.
Before introductions began, my husband put them outside with the flyscreen door shut - this way they could still hear and smell us when we came in, but were a safe distance from our baby. I went outside first to greet them, and they were in excitement overload! The kisses, nudges and crazy zoomies were out of control and I felt very loved and missed.
Once they had calmed down, we were able to bring our baby outside to meet them. I sat in a chair with our baby while my husband was in charge of looking after Woosha and Indi. They were instructed to sit and stay, and then on command they were invited to come over and have a sniff/look/attempted lick. My husband was right by their side and ensured that if they got too excited they were calmed down, asked to sit and stay, and the process began again.
Each day, my husband or myself would sit in a chair with our baby and let our dogs come up and smell him, hear his sounds and gauge his size - they’d never seen a human this tiny before! We also kept doors open around the house so that Woosha and Indi could hear the baby, and found the baby gates worked well for this purpose - it allowed our dogs to interact and hear what was going on.
At first, our dogs would bark whenever they heard our son cry. After all, it was a new and strange sound to them and a crying baby can sometimes sound like a cat! But they settled down after a few days when they started to realise what it was. I’ve now learned that you can address this problem prior to baby arriving home, by downloading and playing crying sounds around the house so the dogs can get used to it before bub comes home.
How do we avoid any jealousy?
It was important to us to make Woosha and Indi still feel like part of the family. Not only was it a big adjustment for us bringing a baby home, but it was for our dogs too. They were used to being the only ‘children’ in the house and now had this strange intruder who was taking all the attention away from them (and making a lot of noise).
When friends and family came to visit our baby, we asked them to go and greet the dogs first, and we still practice this today. The dogs are always so excited when someone comes over, so this helps to calm them and make them feel like they aren’t being left out. It’s a small ask, but we can tell it makes a big difference.
When our baby goes down for his daytime sleeps, I use this opportunity to try and spend some one-on-one time with our dogs. Whether it be lying by my feet while I watch TV, sitting in the sunshine together having a pat, or just talking to them while I prepare dinner, I try to make an effort to let them know they are still valued members of our family.
What about exercising our dogs?
Walking 100kg+ of dog can be a real workout. Then add to that a pram/carrier and baby, and you can imagine the looks I get walking down the street - it is quite a sight!
If my friends or family want to come for a visit, I use this as an opportunity to get outside with the dogs. Instead of sitting at home and having a coffee, I pack up travel cups and get them to help me walk the dogs. We take baby, Woosha and Indi to the park and are able to have a chat and cuppa at the same time. Having an extra pair of hands is always a big help, so don’t be afraid to ask them next time!
What’s yet to come?
We have just entered the crawling stage of life, so no doubt there will be many more adventures and learnings ahead for us, and our dogs. Watch out Woosha and Indi - baby is on the move!
Over the first eight months, we’ve learned that it is possible to continue making our home a loving, safe and comfortable place for all of our children - the human and the fur variety! I knew it wouldn’t be a walk in the park, but with love, patience and planning, we’re making it work.
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is to never be afraid to ask for help - whether it be for advice, an extra pair of hands to walk the dogs, or help setting up the home. This exciting time is a big adjustment for all involved, and you’ll be surprised how much people are willing to help.
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