How to Introduce Your Dog to Your New Baby [A Complete Guide]

A mother introducing a new baby to a dog while making sure that the dog is calm, does not lick the baby’s face, and maintains a respectful approach

The birth of a baby is one of life's greatest joys. As a new family member is about to be received into the home, many pet parents ask themselves: “How do I introduce my baby to my fur baby?” or “How do I help my pup adjust to the new baby?” These are all great questions to ask! 

Eventually, your new family member will meet with your pup (after all, they’ll be living in the same house) — but is there a way to prepare for this, in order to ensure the safest and most positive experience for all? Absolutely!

If your family is expecting, this step-by-step guide will help to make the introduction (between the new baby and pup) go smoothly!

Essential Tips for a Smooth and Safe Introduction between Your Dog and Baby

1. Schedule a Veterinary Exam

A routine check-up for your pup is a vital preparatory step before introducing your dog to your new baby. A routine wellness exam is a thorough screening exam that ensures your pup does not have any unaddressed pain or medical issues that can affect their temperament.

Why is this necessary? 

It is crucial to remember that pups who are in pain or are sick may be less sociable or may exhibit some aggression or agitation. A routine check-up will ensure that your pup is in the best physical and mental state for meeting a new family member. 

Routine wellness exams are also a great opportunity to stay on top of your pet’s vaccinations and to ensure that they are free of any harmful illnesses or parasites. Some illnesses may be zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted to humans. For example, Toxocara is a type of roundworm that lives in a dog's intestines. Because this illness is zoonotic, it represents a potential health risk for infants and small children who have a developing immune system. 

What to expect:

During a veterinary wellness exam, your veterinarian will perform a physical exam and may request the following: 

  • Fecal parasite screening;
  • Heartworm testing, and initiating monthly parasite prevention (if not already a part of your pet’s health profile); and
  • Bloodwork or radiography if deemed necessary.  

Experienced veterinarians are not just experts in a pet’s physical well-being, they can also offer professional insights on animal behavior and psychology. Therefore, one-on-one time with the veterinarian is a great opportunity to ask questions about introducing dogs to babies.

After a quick wellness exam (and any subsequent treatments that Fido will need), you’ll have a healthy and happy pup, ready for the next steps in preparing to meet your new baby!

A pet wellness exam in Sploot Veterinary Care in Denver to make sure that a dog is at optimal health before a new baby arrives in the house

2. Consider Hiring a Trainer

If your dog hasn't attended an obedience class yet, consider signing them up for one. It’s an investment that will pay off in preparing your pup for a new chapter in their life (i.e. meeting their new human sibling). Training will also instill skills that will be beneficial for years to come. 

Why is this necessary? 

Some behaviors that were once only mildly challenging could become more problematic once a baby is living in the house. For example, behaviors such as jumping up may not have been much of an issue in the past, but when a newborn is present and will need to be carried, this habit could become problematic. In addition, a dog that is barking constantly may also disrupt an infant’s sleep. Obedience training can address these behaviors and give you better verbal control over your furry companion. 

What to expect:

A qualified trainer will help you correct issues such as jumping up, barking, etc. Different dog trainers use different training techniques and this can be one of your criteria when choosing the best trainer for your pup. Another important factor to consider is the dog trainer’s past success which you will be able to see from customer reviews. 

Once you’ve chosen a dog trainer, you’ll be able to drop off your pup for training sessions and pick them up when they’re done. Depending on your availability, you may also be able to participate in Fido’s training. After a few weeks or months of progressive training sessions (and practice at home), you will have a well-behaved pup by the time your new baby arrives! 

3. Get Your Dog Used to the New Routine in Advance

If it’s still a few months or weeks before your new baby is born, it is a great opportunity to get Fido acclimated to upcoming changes to their routine. As recommended by the ASPCA, try to forecast how Fido’s schedule will change when the newborn baby arrives. Then, implement these changes gradually in advance.  

To easily maintain a consistent feeding schedule for your pup, consider getting an automatic feeder. This device will dispense portions of dog food on a schedule, ensuring that your pup is always fed on time even on the busiest of days. Just remember to acclimatize your dog to use an automatic feeder in advance! 

Why is this necessary? 

Dogs are most comfortable when they have a predictable routine. The arrival of a  newborn baby will shake up their routine dramatically. To-be parents can make the transition easier by setting up the new routine for their pup before the newborn baby even arrives. 

What to expect:

As with any major change, dogs may take time to adjust to the new routine. It would be ideal if they can process the routine changes in a relatively controlled environment as this makes the process easier. 

By the time the baby arrives, your canine friend will have the routine pat down and will only need to get used to the new stimuli of having a new (and adorable!) family member around.

A corgi lying next to a clock symbolizes a dog acclimatizing to the new schedule that will be in place when a new baby arrives in the house.

4. Desensitize Your Dog to Baby-Related Sights & Sounds 

Having a new baby in the house will mean that Fido will be exposed to unfamiliar sights and sounds, some of which may be scary to dogs. Through desensitization, pet parents can help their canine companions adjust more easily. 

Desensitization in dogs involves gradual exposure to stimuli that typically evoke an undesirable reaction in dogs (e.g. getting startled, barking, hiding, agitation). The pet is exposed little by little to the stimulus until they are no longer reactive to the stimulus. Dogs can also be given treats to help them switch from a negative response to having a positive association with the new stimulus.

Here are some ways to desensitize your four-legged companion to the new (and potentially overwhelming) sights and sounds of having a new baby in the house: 

  • Play recordings of lullabies, baby toy sounds, baby laughter, and baby crying. Start with a low volume and work your way up, allowing your dog to get used to these sounds through gradual desensitization. .
  • From time to time, walk around with a baby doll as you go around the house, thereby preparing your pet that they are no longer the only family member being carried around.
  • Take the stroller out with your on your walks to help prepare your dog for future changes to your walk routine.
  • Allow your dog to investigate new furniture, car seats, and strollers from a respectful distance.
  • Install a baby gate prior to the baby’s arrival so your pet can get used to boundaries. Allow your pet to acclimatize to being outside of the room while you are in there. 

Why is this necessary?  

All of the above examples are stimuli or changes that can potentially scare a dog or evoke a negative response. Any of the above can cause dogs to be scared, agitated, or overly curious. 

By giving dogs a calm and stable environment for them to adjust to these changes, pet parents lay the foundation for a smoother transition toward life with a new baby. Any undesirable behavior (e.g. jumping up when the doll is carried, barking while hearing baby sounds) can also be addressed in advance. 

What to expect:

Each individual dog is different. Some may take weeks to fully become calm and non-reactive to the new sights and sounds of having a baby. Remember to be patient with your pup, and know that if you ever struggle with unwanted behavior, expert help is always available. Consult your veterinarian if you observe stubborn behavior or anxiety in your dog.  

5. Plan the First Meeting

For pet parents who are expecting, planning ahead for the first meeting between your dog and your baby is highly recommended. It would be best to have someone hold the baby and wait outside while you greet Fido and get them to settle down. 

Why is this necessary? 

Your coming home from the hospital will cause a surge of emotions (i.e. happiness and relief) for your furry family member who may not have understood why you were gone and when you’d be back. This can cause them to be more physically active than usual. 

Your pup may try to rush toward you, greet you, and get your attention. This is always a welcome sight for every pet parent — but it can be overwhelming if you have a newborn infant in your hands. Hence, meeting your dog first and bringing in your newborn baby after they’ve settled down is ideal. 

What to expect: 

After the pup has settled down, pet parents can take a minute to sit down and let their well-behaved pup sniff a blanket that has been around the baby or an item of the baby’s clothing that has been worn. This will help acclimate your pet to the baby’s scent prior to meeting the baby. 

Then once calmed from this, you may allow your pup to sniff the baby from a respectful distance. Bear in mind that this next step entirely depends on each individual’s level of comfort. When in doubt, try to tune into what’s most comfortable for you. 

Observe your dog’s reaction to your baby. The next milestones you set for your dog, in terms of getting acquainted with the baby, will depend on your pup’s reactions. 

6. Reward Positive Behavior & Take Things Slow

Reward your dog whenever they display good behavior around your baby. For the first meeting between your pup and the new baby (and for the first subsequent ones), reward your dog after they sniff the baby from a respectful distance and walk away

Why is this necessary?

By rewarding your dog’s good behavior (even just the habit of walking away calmly from the baby), you create a positive association with regard to the new baby. So when your pet behaves appropriately, reward them with affection or a treat. 

If your pet shows signs of discomfort around the new baby, redirect their attention to something enjoyable, such as a new squeaky toy or their favorite treat.

What to expect: 

This recommendation is all about positive reinforcement, a powerful tool in getting dogs acclimated to major changes. Give your pup time to adjust. Take baby steps and plan out encounters between your child and your dog. Start simple, take it slowly, use positive reinforcement, and build on tiny successes, one step at a time.

Close-up of a treat that is about to be handed to a dog as a reward for calm and respectful behavior around a baby

7. Set Up Healthy Boundaries

Setting up and maintaining healthy boundaries between your dog and your baby is the best way to maintain a safe and harmonious relationship between the two. In spite of social media posts that show dogs sleeping next to babies or licking the face of babies, these are not representative of safe boundaries that apply to all. 

It is recommended to set up boundaries for your baby, such as the following: 

  • Avoid leaving the baby and your pup alone; make sure to supervise every interaction closely and calmly.
  • Pet parents can opt to keep pups out of the nursery entirely or to only come into the nursery when supervised.
  • It is recommended to refrain from letting your dog lick your baby’s face or hands; this is especially important during a baby’s first months of life.

Why is this necessary? 

The boundaries listed above ensure the safety of both your baby and fur baby. These boundaries are best for the baby’s health because dogs can inadvertently carry germs that are typically harmless for adults but may cause sickness in babies. 

And though boundaries like this may seem like your furry friend is being excluded, these will help establish a better transition and prevent overwhelm for your pup. 

What to expect: 

With clarity, consistency, and time, dogs will learn boundaries and get used to them. Refrain from allowing certain behaviors sometimes and then restricting them at other times. These inconsistencies will confuse your furry friend. 

When faced with behavioral challenges in pups or resistance to boundaries, seek advice from experts. Veterinarians, veterinary behaviorists, and expert trainers can provide useful insights that may be able to correct unwanted behavior and help pet parents establish healthier boundaries.

8. Give Your Dog a Safe Space

We recommend providing your dog with mental and physical space during the first few months of parenthood. When things get hectic, allow your dog to process the changes in their own safe space, a quiet corner away from it all.

Why is this necessary? 

Being den animals, dogs may have their own preferred resting spots whenever they feel overwhelmed. If your pup has undergone crate training, this resting spot is likely to be their crate.

What to expect: 

As your dog processes change in their lifestyle and new stimuli in the house, they may retreat to their crate or favorite hiding spot every now and then. Some dogs may take weeks or months to fully adjust to their new life. 

Note: Remember to make sure their crate is off-limits to everyone, including visitors, babysitters, and other kids. If at any point, you become concerned that your pup is becoming too reclusive, it may be beneficial to have a behavioral consultation with your veterinarian.

A dog lying down inside a comfortable crate, which is the dog’s safe space whenever they are overwhelmed by the experience of having a new baby in the house

Final Thoughts On Introducing Your Dog To Your Baby

These tips about how to introduce your dog to your new baby will pave the way to a lasting friendship. If you have questions about canine behavior, consult your local veterinarian. 

We've got you covered! Sploot Veterinary Care is a primary and urgent care clinic with daily appointment availability and extended clinic hours. Whether you need routine care for your dog or you have questions about pet behavioral concerns, we’re here to give you the support you need. 

Book an appointment today at one of our multiple clinic locations. Till next time, we’re with you every pounce of the way!