Introducing your dog to your new baby

Last Updated : 02 May 2024
Baby and dog

The weeks leading up to the arrival of a new baby are often a time of intense anticipation and activity. With onesies to wash, the car seat to install and perhaps older siblings to prepare for the new arrival, it can be easy to forget that our four-legged friends have no idea what’s around the corner. 

By preparing your dog as much as possible and introducing them to the baby in the right way, you can help them to feel calm and secure as they adjust to the changes at home. And although you should never leave a baby with a dog unsupervised (even for a second!), this will help to prevent the worst case scenario: the dog causing your baby harm.

In the weeks before the baby is due: 

  • Start to make changes to your dog’s routine before the baby arrives to prevent the dog from associating these changes with the baby. Things like keeping the dog out of the baby’s room and stopping the dog from sleeping on the bed should start a few weeks before the baby is due.

  • Similarly, reducing the attention you give your dog a few weeks before the baby is due means the dog will not associate the drop in attention with the arrival of the baby. However, do give them praise if they sniff new baby-related items.

  • Set up the nursery (if you have one) and baby gear around the house and play sounds of crying babies so that the dog can adjust early to the new sounds and smells.

When you first arrive home with your baby:

  • Greet your dog first. Give them lots of attention and play with them so they can exhaust some of that pent-up energy and be calmer when they meet the baby. Make sure the baby is not near the dog when you greet them.

  • Allow the dog to approach you and the baby first – don’t force your baby in their face.

  • Create a “safe space” for your dog where the baby is not allowed. This lets your dog feel secure and allows them to self-soothe. It’s important to make sure the baby is never allowed in the dog’s safe space.

In the following days, weeks and months: 

  • After the dog has adjusted to the smell, sight, and sounds of a real baby (this may take a few days), let your dog sniff the baby up close while controlled on a leash. Praise your dog when they sniff so that they know they are doing the right thing by being gentle with your newborn.

  • After your dog has gotten used to your baby and you know it is safe, you can let your dog off-leash around your newborn, however, you must continuously supervise them.

  • Make sure the baby is always elevated (not on the floor) and that you are always between the dog and the baby.

  • Reward calm and peaceful behaviour by the dog around the baby.

  • Make sure the dog’s toys and baby’s toys are kept separate. The baby should also be kept away from the dogs’ food and water bowls.

  • If the baby suddenly starts crying or kicking, the dog may react unpredictably. Keep an eye on your dog’s behaviour and body language, and move the dog away or put it in its safe space if you think the dog is becoming uncomfortable.

Most importantly, NEVER leave the dog alone with your baby, even once they have become familiar with each other. A dog bite can happen in an instant and the injuries to babies and young children are often very serious. 

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