How to Socialize a Dog with a New Baby

By Christopher Quinn – a former U.S. Army Medic and current dog enthusiast who has been writing for several years now, covering nearly any dog-related topic you can imagine.

He’s the loving father of two very rambunctious pups of his own, a 9.5-year-old Jack Russell Terrier/Border Collie mix and a 3-year-old Beagle. Chris has worked with countless dogs in his lifetime, focusing on agility training and his overall passion- behavioral rehabilitation.

How do you socialize a dog with a new baby?

Let’s say you already have a dog at home, and you bring home a new baby.

How will you introduce them safely?

How will you make sure they get along?

Prepare Ahead of Time

If you know a new baby is coming, try changing your schedule a month or two before you are forced to make the same changes. You won’t be able to spend as much time with your dog once the baby arrives, so start getting him used to this early on.

What other changes will you have to make?

Enforcing your dog’s obedience, such as ‘sit’, ‘stay’, and ‘drop it’, will help you out on your way.

Having good verbal control of your dog can really help when it comes to juggling her needs and the baby’s care.

Make Sure Your Dog Has the Space He Needs

This can be a tricky balance to achieve, but the delicacy is important.

On one hand, your dog won’t be getting the same amount of attention he has been before your new addition was added to the mix.

Your new baby will be getting a lot more of it, both because he is a baby and that is a natural human connection, and out of necessity.

On the other hand, you’ve introduced new smells and sounds your dog might not have ever experienced before!

The new baby will require a lot of attention, and that will be very demanding on you as a devoted parent.

Your body language will change as stress levels increase, and your dog is going to notice that.

Center Yourself & Control Your Body Language

If you’re wondering how to socialize a dog with a new baby, it has a lot more to do with you than you might think!

Dogs read our visual cues and body language.

They are doing this constantly, every time they look at us. It’s easy to forget this.

Your dog can tell when you are upset, angry, or feeling uncomfortable based on the way you carry yourself.

Dogs also tend to judge situations based on how we react to them.

How do you think your dog will feel about the new baby if you are always acting stressed and fidgeting around it?

Make sure you always remain calm, and your emotions are level.

If you are anxious and worried about your dog’s reaction to the baby, you are in a sense encouraging him to be.

Socialize Beforehand if Possible!

Few pet owners consider introducing their dogs to other people’s babies. It just isn’t something we think about, and some would consider it rude to ask in the first place. It would help to explain yourself and exactly why you want to do this.

After all, what is socialization? It’s preparing a dog to gladly accept everything and everyone he might encounter in the future. A socialized dog has been taught these things are good and pleasurable, not threats to worry about.

When socializing a dog with a new baby, carefully socialize your dog with other people’s babies, little by little over time, before your dog is forced to share his living environment with one 24/7. Incorporate treats and enthusiastic praise! Most importantly, always supervise.

Socialization is most effective when begun during puppyhood. You want to teach your puppy human babies are good things before he becomes an adult.

This is just a helpful recommendation! Not having done this isn’t going to make or break your experience.

Dogs that show any aggression toward new babies almost always do because they were poorly socialized with children. The little human seems both frightening and foreign. There really is only one good way to avoid this!

Promote Happiness!

As your little one settles, keep focusing on establishing those good, happy, pleasant associations.

Shower your dog with calm yet enthusiastic praise for interacting with the baby! Reward him with treats.

Teach him the baby means good things for him!

This type of positive reinforcement will also work at a basic level, with your baby as he grows! Help him make positive associations with your dog!

Reward your dog for polite behavior around the baby. Encourage controlled, calm behaviors around the child. ‘Shower’ your dog with ‘calm’ yet enthusiastic praise.

Coping with Baby Sounds

Imagine you’re a dog, and your calm, quiet daily life is suddenly bombarded with the screams of an infant constantly wanting attention. This can be a pretty big source of stress on its own.

Try playing a tape recording of baby sounds daily, before your dog suddenly has to face them all at once.

  • This is also important when preparing a cat to accept a new baby!

Never Force Interaction

If your dog is feeling insecure for any reason, never force interactions between your dog and pup. This could cause more stress!

Instead, encourage interactions on your dog’s own terms. Speak calm and softly praise your pup for being brave and social.

Use Safety Gates

Set up baby or dog gates to block off certain areas of the house, preventing your pup from accessing them when you aren’t around. Your baby is probably in his or her crib when you can’t be there to supervise, but this is still a good practice to get in the habit of.

Safety gates will become more important as your baby grows and begins crawling, then walking!

Most Importantly, Always Supervise!

Be sure you’re always offering close supervision between dog and baby! You should always be present when your dog is around your little one. If you can’t be present, use a gate to block off this area of the house.

Even though our dogs might be well trained, and we love them like members of our family, they are still dogs. Dogs often respond instinctively to a situation, and don’t think before acting like humans might.

Even if your dog never means to harm your child in any way, accidents happen! Don’t give them the opportunity to happen in the first place.

Useful Links

How to introduce a new baby to the dogs – Wendywood Veterinary Hospital

Socialize Your Dog – Oregon Veterinary Medical Association

Puppy Socialization – The Anti-Cruelty Society

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