When puppies and babies grow up together they form a special bond, but a lot hinges on their first meeting. How can you help your two special family members become happy and safe playmates?
Puppies can be a baby’s best friend, but if first introductions aren’t handled properly and boundaries are not respected it’s not always smooth sailing. Here’s how to make sure your puppy and baby play nice.
Why can puppies be scared of babies?
It’s important to remember that puppies have never encountered babies prior to your bringing them home, which means they can sometimes be afraid of them. Like many new situations your puppy will be going through, they may not know how to act around babies.
While older dogs may seem more tolerant of young children, they also need to be “baby trained”. Tail tugging and incessant wailing can be frustrating for a young puppy (or any pet), potentially causing them to lash out. Couple that with the fact crawling babies resemble moving prey and you could potentially have an unpleasant incident.
“It is vital that we tell our dogs that we are expecting (a baby), teach or revisit a variety of behaviours and slowly change their routine to reflect what it may be like with a new baby in the family,” says Serena Dean, Veterinary Behaviour and Training Manager for Greencross Vets. “Never leave your puppy alone with your baby or child. Puppies and dogs will show us subtle warning signs that they are uncomfortable and if these warning signs go unnoticed they can become more serious. If you require further help or advice on your puppy’s behaviour, speak with your local Greencross Vets.
How to facilitate a friendship
Fortunately it’s quite easy to ensure babies and puppies will grow up to be best friends. A little preparation around the house and foresight go a long way, plus you’ve got nine months to plan! “Start ‘baby training’ with your puppy as soon as you find out you are expecting,” says Serena. “As you and your puppy’s lifestyle will be changing it’s important to remember that even well trained and social dogs can show unexpected behaviours when fearful, pained or stressed.” Get your puppy used to what life with a baby will be like by rubbing baby powder and other smells on yourself so the scent becomes familiar and playing sounds of infants crying so they know what to expect and become desensitised.
For puppies 8-16 weeks old, enrolling them in a Puppy School program is extremely beneficial to their development as they will be taught how to socialise with all sorts of different humans, and with other puppies in a safe and friendly learning environment. As these classes are kept small and intimate, you will have plenty of opportunity to seek individualised feedback and advice from the trained instructors on how to make sure your puppy and baby start off on the right paw.
Top tips for baby-training your puppy
- Learn how to socialise your puppy at Petbarn’s Puppy School
- Reinforce manners training including sit, down, stay, come, leave it, and lead walking
- Teach your puppy to enjoy being handled
- Teach your puppy their new boundaries
- Provide a safe place for your puppy to retreat to, such as a crate or play pen
Tips for when you bring your baby home
- Have your puppy smell an item the baby has been using and take note of how they respond. They may ignore it – this is ok
- Introduce your baby in a calm, positive manner, holding them safely out of reach
- Reward your puppy’s good behaviour with treats and praise. Ignore inappropriate behaviours
- Puppy proof your nursery by keeping your baby’s toys, diapers and clothes are out of your puppy’s reach
- Never leave your puppy alone with your baby
- Understand your dog’s body language and recognise when they are feeling uncomfortable. Allow them to retreat to their safe zone
- Continue to spend quality time with your puppy and let them know that they are loved
Visit your local Greencross Vets clinic if you have any questions about your puppy and baby’s interactions