When we found out we were having a baby, one of the thoughts I had was about our animals. None of them have a ton of experience with kids, toddlers, babies. Our friends with kids have come over for dinner parties and BBQ’s and sometimes it goes well, sometimes it’s not great. The cats run and hide. Neither of them like small human creatures and sadly, most kids don’t know that a hissing cat does NOT want to play with you…
For awhile Bella would get really agitated when kids were at the house. We’d do the introductions very slowly, keep her outside or in the other part of the house until she calmed down. But sometimes she’d just bark the whole time. Eventually she got better. It helped with certain friends that came over more frequently–everyone got more comfortable with each other. Bella got much better with them! The last time those particular friends were over the little one, the 2 year old, was feeding Bella treats. And Bella is really good about being gentle taking treats, so it went well!
The first time Bella met a baby (that same 2 year old that was younger), I wasn’t sure what she’d do. But she did great! She sniffed the baby, licked him and seemed fascinated as he crawled around the house.
Because I was apprehensive about the big addition to the family, I started researching early and making notes. There was a ton of good advise out there. I wanted to share a few things I found, discuss my plan and also ask for advice from you readers who have already gone through this!
One of the suggestions I saw a lot was to start giving your dog less attention before the baby comes so it’s not a shock to the dog. This made me sad. 🙁 I understand it and I’m sure it’s the best thing to do but it will be hard! Especially for me. I’m used to cuddling and giving Bella lots of attention. Same with Fat Kitty.
Before the Baby
I found some youtube videos of babies crying and started playing the sound for the animals.
Some of the stuff I’ve read recommended getting a doll or something and having it on your lap to train the animals to get used to you holding a baby. I felt like this was a good idea, especially for Fat Kitty because his spot is on my lap at all times. I knew he was going to struggle with this.
Before the baby comes, practice walking the dog with the stroller. This was a new tip to me! It totally made sense and I can’t believe I didn’t think about that. Although the neighbors will probably think we are crazy if we’re pushing an empty stroller up and down the street… LOL
Bringing Baby Home
Make sure the dog is well exercised before the meeting. Plan on having someone (Michael, our parents, or the dog walker) come over and walk Bella and play with her to wear her out before the first meeting.
Let the dog smell something (like a blanket) that smells like the baby before the first meeting.
Coming home: let the husband carry the baby so mom can greet the dog. I didn’t think about this one and I think it might be a good idea!
Get the dog a new chew toy. I will definitely be doing this. Kind of like when you take a gift to the older sibling when a new baby is born. Kind of grease the wheels so no one feels bad. 🙂
Pay attention to the dog’s body language. Growling, aggressive behavior, etc. Dogs (well, and cats honestly) will give warning signals when they are not happy. When Fat Kitty sees babies and kids he hisses, growls, his ears flatten and then he runs away and hides.
If the dog is underfoot, toss a treat a few feet away instead of scolding the dog or saying no. (Good advice in general!)
I particularly liked the ASPCA advice. It was a great read. I liked this quote:
Teaching Your Dog to Love the Baby:
As the baby settles in, continue to focus on associating him with good things for your dog. You may be tempted to give her plenty of attention when the baby’s asleep and then try to get her to lie down, be quiet and leave you alone while the baby’s awake. It’s actually much better to do the opposite. Try to give your dog lots of attention when the baby is present. Teach her that when he’s around, she gets treats, petting, playing—and anything else she likes. When you feed the baby, you can feed your dog, too. When you walk your dog, do your best to take the baby along. (Baby “backpacks” and slings are great for dog parents.) This strategy, though it requires some skillful multitasking on your part, teaches your dog a valuable lesson. She’ll learn to love it when the baby is awake and active because that’s when good things happen for her.
I think this will work well with Bella. She’ll be included and the lab in her will like having a task/job.
Sniff the Baby:
Some dogs are nervous about babies or even a bit afraid of them and go out of their way to avoid contact. If your dog seems a little worried about the new member of your family, you can teach her how to touch the baby with her nose on cue. This exercise will give her a safe way to interact with him and get used to his scent, appearance and sounds—without being forced to stay close for more than a few seconds at a time.
This is another great tip! One of the tricks that Bella know is “touch.” We hold our fist/hand out and say “Touch” and she jumps up and touches our hand with her nose. This is a GREAT trick for bringing her focus back to US and we try and use it for fun and when she needs to be redirected/distracted. Like she’s trying to jump on house guests or barking at something and we want to distract her. I think we can figure out a way to do that with touching/sniffing the baby too. It will just take some practice.
That’s pretty much the plan. Have help, wear Bella out, make introductions slowly.
Now what about you? Any tips or advice from people who have been through this?