I am sitting here, writing this, from my favorite spot in the entire world: my 5 day old son is asleep on my chest, my 19 month old daughter is fast asleep in her crib, and my dog is asleep at the foot of the couch. As silly as it sounds, my most viral video on the internet is my dog, Arrow, meeting my daughter Oakley. Today I shared the video of her meeting our son Dean and I was sent a ton of questions on tips to introducing a dog and a baby.
I want to start by saying that I am not a dog expert nor a dog trainer. I can simply share what we did and the techniques we used for the introduction of both of our children. If you do have professional dog inquires, I suggest reaching out to Arrow’s trainer: Jeremy Moore (website) or checking out his free content on social media!
A little background on Arrow: she just turned three (born March 2019), she is a belgian malinois / german shepherd mix, about 70lbs, and highly intelligent. She has been spayed as well and has never been pregnant. She is a high drive, working dog that needs to be stimulated at all times and is very destructive if she gets bored. That being said, she truly is the sweetest dog in the entire world and an absolute mother hen. The key here, is truly planning ahead!
- With any dog, baby or not, the animal should be trained for at least obedience. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is and how hyper critical it is to bring a dog a well trained animal around a newborn
- Arrow has spent four weeks in 2019, five weeks in 2020, and three weeks in 2021 with her trainer. When she was with him in 2020, it was in March when we were in New Zealand. I was 20 weeks pregnant with Oakley at the time and Jeremy’s daughter was a few months shy of being a year old. The timing just worked out on the second trip and I realize it was an absolute blessing. The point is, however, that she has spent 12 weeks with her trainer to set the foundation of the her obedience and other skills. I don’t think every dog needs that much time but it is all breed and personality dependent
- Training is taught at school and it’s enforced daily at home. You cannot simply rely on a few weeks of work with a dog and then not expect to reinforce what was taught at home. We work with Arrow daily on different tasks to ensure her skills and training are top notch, all in preparing her to meet our children
Baby Specific Training
- Establish boundaries around the nursery BEFORE baby arrives
- Arrow is not allowed in either nursery. She’s actually not even allowed upstairs but that slips from time to time. She also knows which toys are off limits as well so there are no conflicts that arise if she takes one of the baby’s toys (because she knows which are hers)
- Mess with the dog while they are eating
- This is a HUGE one to establish before the baby comes, especially if you have a food dominant animal. We never intend for a child to stick their hands into a dog’s food or water but things can happen and it’s best to be prepared for the situation and for that one instance to not be the first time the dog has had hands in it’s food bowl or in it’s mouth. We can easily take Arrow’s food from her, push her from her food, stick our hands in her mouth, take food out of of her mouth, etc
- Pull on ears / tail / fur
- Again, another one that no one intends to happen but kids are curious and they do push the limits from time to time. Don’t let the first time your dog gets their fur pulled to be when your child does it. Prepare ahead of time and mess with them a ton to get them used to it. It may never happen but it’s best to be over prepared if it does
- Play the sounds of a baby crying
- We never did this for Arrow but she also doesn’t get scared over noises such as fireworks or thunder. If your dog has sound triggers, playing babies crying for weeks ahead of baby’s arrival is a great way to acclimate them to the new sound
- Learn your dog’s mannerisms, cues, and body language
- This is a huge one and one that dog owner’s should know, baby or not. You need to understand your dog’s stress mannerisms and body language. That way, if you can tell they are getting aggravated by a situation, you can separate the dog and child before anything escalates and then evaluate what needs to happen from there
- Create tiny successful moments and start from there
- When we introduced Arrow to either child, we had her outside before we brought the baby in. This allowed us to control the situation and not have her bombard us at the door. Once we were ready for the introduction, we let her in and we monitor how close she gets. We do not let her lick the baby’s face for at least the first month of life. This is also a time to encourage their own space to make sure they know the baby isn’t taking over their “den”. Creating small wins will help the confidence of the dog
It’s a Two Way Street
- Teaching your children to respect dogs (and all animals they come in contact with)
- It can’t just be the dogs job to respect the child. It also have to be the child’s job to respect the dog. Teaching by example on how to pet, throw, etc when the child is of age will help immensely. Along with the above, teaching kids to not mess with dogs while eating and to not pull on ears / tail / fur is crucial
- Let them be helpers
- Oakley LOVES helping with Arrow’s food which creates a special time for the both of them while she feeds Arrow. She also helping brush her too- the more you can include the child, the better. She also loves giving treats (when appropriate) and it furthers their bond even more
- Playing fetch
- For the first year of Oakley’s life, Arrow was taught to not take anything from her, even if she offered it to her. Now, we have worked with her on fetch when Oakley throws something. It’s up to you, as a family, to decide what you want to train the dog to do / the age at which they are going to do it
- Teach your kids how to read dog language
- When kids are old enough, they also need to be taught how to read dog language to ensure they are always keeping themselves safe
I hope these tips helped! Please let me know in the comments below!