It’s been almost two months since Lucy was born (!!) and it feels like time is already flying by. She’s changed so much since we brought her home from the hospital. One of the things I was most nervous about while pregnant was how Jack would react and adapt to having a new member in our family. We adopted Jack last January when he was like 6 weeks old, so he’s spent most of his life with us. He’s super loyal, friendly and loving, and I’ve seen him interact really well with small children before, but I wasn’t sure how he would take to *our* baby and all of our attention not being on him anymore. It was really important to us that Jack was welcoming and kind to the baby, but also that he still felt important and loved (because he is!). We knew it would be a big transition and it broke my heart thinking about him potentially feeling abandoned or left behind. We’ve tried to be conscious of how he might react to all of these changes, which is why it was important for us to prepare Jack before baby and now with her here! ?
Today, I wanted to share some tips for integrating dogs and babies into one family and how to make the transition as seamless as possible!
Our puppy school trainer Mike wrote this book Good Dog, Happy Baby that has tons of great tips for helping prepare your dog for the arrival of your baby. He also has a podcast, where he gives tons of good baby and dog-related tips. We listened to his podcast during a long road trip from Vancouver to SF, and also opted to do his paid online course before Lucy arrived, where we learned different ways to prepare jack for the baby. I HIGHLY recommend reading/listening/investing in Mike’s advice and guidance because he’s truly a dog whisperer and his tips have really worked for us.
one thing to call out is that Mike always says to not assume your dog will do the right/best thing and even the BEST dogs need training. overall, Jack is a super loving and friendly dog, but we didn’t want to just assume that he would welcome Lucy with open arms. we opted to be proactive in training and practicing with Jack before baby and even now, are super conscious of their interactions together.
BEFORE BABY COMES HOME
We did the exercises we learned from Mike’s training course (mentioned above) to prepare Jack for “baby handling.” Basically, we tried to desensitize Jack from getting his ears/tail pulled and loud noises (as babies/toddlers will inevitably pull on a dog’s fur and also are LOUD/ANNOYING). We purposely annoyed Jack, pulled his fur, etc., and then would give him a treat, so he would associate rough (or “baby” handling) with a reward.
The first night, while we were still in the hospital with Lucy, my father-in-law brought a blanket and pajamas Lucy had worn back to our apartment for Jack. This was advice I had read previously, so the dog gets used to the smell of the baby. Who knows if this works, but almost all advice online recommended doing this!
DOG AND BABY MEETING FOR FIRST TIME
I was sooo excited to leave the hospital and get home! We intentionally planned Lucy and Jack’s first meeting, based on the tips we received and research we did. I walked into the apartment first and greeted Jack, giving him lots of attention (and I was sobbing like uncontrollably – hello hormones ?). Eric was holding Lucy in her carseat and we put it on the floor and let Jack “explore” the area and “meet” her. He immediately went up to her, sniffed her all over and started licking (which we call kissing ?) her hands and face. Cue the tears AGAIN, because I was so grateful and happy that Jack was so welcoming towards her.
For the first few days, Jack was more standoff-ish towards me. Not jealous and not angry just…distant, if that makes sense. Less cuddling close to me and he sort of clung towards Eric and even my mom, since she was in town. I think he was sensing the changes and that I was very occupied with Lucy. After awhile, he sort of moved on and has been treating me normally since. ??
DAY TO DAY LIFE WITH DOG AND BABY
One of the best tips I learned from Mike’s podcast was related to the way you spend time/give attention to the dog when baby is around. Here’s the advice –> New parents often put baby to sleep/nap and when baby is “away”, they pay attention to their pet. This sets up the wrong association for your pet; they begin to learn that they get attention/love from you when baby ISN’T around. Instead, try to do the opposite. Invite your pet to be close to you when you’re doing things with baby – feeding, playing, etc. The goal is to set up a positive association for your pet; when baby is around = good things happen to dog. If your dog is treat-motivated, give the dog treats in these situations. Jack just likes attention, so we just invite him to play with Lucy or be affectionate towards her.
Gently remind your dog that baby is a baby. Jack loves Lucy (as evidenced by all my pics) and loves to sniff her, lick her, etc. We try to avoid him licking her face so when we see that happen, we gently tell him “Off” or “Gentle.” We’re trying to get him used to the word “gentle” so he learns that means to back off a bit or to be a little more careful. We also use the “gentle” when he is a little hyper or is bouncing around her when she’s on bed/couch with us.
Praise your dog when he/she does something right. Yesterday, Jack and Lucy were next to each other and right as Jack was yawning, Lucy punched her arm and put her hand into his mouth. ? Jack immediately just started licking her hand, rather than 1) getting snappy that his space was invaded and 2) BITING HER MID-YAWN! I was so proud! I praised him for doing a good job “kissing” her and scratched his chin/neck (which he loves).
Okay that’s all I have for now, mostly because Lucy just woke up and I’ve been working on this post for like five days in between mama duties and just want to wrap it up. ? If you have any questions about Lucy and Jack or dogs/babies in general, please reach out!