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Nov 2

Dogs and Newborns: Nailing the Meet-and-Greet

Written for Mountain Midwifery Center by Casey Dickson, Rover.com community member (Rover is the nation’s largest network of 5-star pet sitters and dog walkers)

Introducing new baby to your dog(s) (photo used with permission from rover.com)

First of all: congratulations! You have (or are thinking about getting) two of the most precious things on this earth — a baby and a dog. And with all of the delight that comes along with having both of these beings in the household, there’s also a lot of thought and planning that necessarily goes along with that.

When you’re expecting a baby, you plan. Of course you do. You’ve already begun the next phase of your life, and making room for a new baby is part of that. You gather the necessities, create a nursery, and design a household routine that will work for all of its beloved members: you, your family — and your dog.

Since your pup is the only member of the family that doesn’t know exactly what’s about to happen to the only household routine they know, there are a few steps you can take to introduce them to the concept of a brand-new family member who’s about to take up a lot of the family’s time and energy.

After the baby’s born, and before the introduction…

Use a burp cloth, or anything else that will have your new baby’s scent on it, and let your dog become familiar with the smell. The best way to do this is to hold the item at a distance from the dog while they sniff, conveying that it’s yours, under your control, and must be respected. This introduction to the smell, and setting of a boundary, mean that once your newborn is introduced, your dog won’t be as jarred by the new element and perceive the new baby as such an intrusion.

Once the baby’s home..

And before the dog officially meets him or her, make sure to give your dog plenty of exercise, tiring and calming them before the first introduction. Maybe have a familiar neighbor or grandparent walk the dog the day baby is born right before baby comes home from the birth center. Be sure to maintain your dog’s usual routine in your post-baby world (as much as possible) — this will help to ensure that the new baby won’t be perceived as a negative addition by the pup.

Why growing up around dogs right off the bat is so important…

A child’s exposure to an environment with a dog straight from the get-go can offer a host of benefits to a baby’s development. From what research tells us, it’s essentially a gradual primer for the immune system to perform better in your baby’s early childhood and beyond. The dander from your dog’s coat, and microbes they bring in from the outside world (from basic bacteria and viruses to other animal allergens) can be incredibly important in preparing your baby to fend off far worse infections later on. The early presence of a dog in the household may also lower the risk of your baby developing general allergies and childhood asthma.

There are compelling mental benefits, too. Studies suggest that some important elements of emotional intelligence — compassion, awareness of beings outside themselves, self-esteem — are developed in children who grow up in houses with dogs.