Dogs are pack animals by nature. In time, your dog will come to see the grandchild as another member of its “pack” (your family). But things may be rocky at first. The key is to be well-prepared and control the situation when your dog meets your grandchild.
If you haven’t already, please read this general article on introducing pets and grandchildren.
Is Your Dog Ready?
In addition to considering your dog’s personality, age and health, another factor is its breed. Some breeds are known to be better with children than others. Boxers, mastiffs, sheepdogs, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, beagles, pugs and poodles are all known for getting along well with kids. Chihuahuas, Dalmatians, chow chows, Rottweilers and pit bulls are known for not getting along as well. You can also google your dog breed and “kids.”
If your dog has every shown hostility or aggression to other people and animals, especially small people and animals, you should take extra careful precautions. Your dog may not understand that a baby is a human being.
No matter what the temperament of your dog, it should be subordinate to you and all people before introducing the baby. Make sure its training is up to par. Even if it is quite well-behaved, you may want to spend some time doing some extra training before the baby arrives. Take old commands and create new activities. Teach it to heel around the house so it doesn’t dart out of doorways. You must be in control.
Creating a Safe Space
Create a safe space where your dog can retreat when it’s had enough. Your dog’s space should be comfortable and filled with favorite toys and other things it loves. Place the same kind of objects there you would if you were going to kennel the dog. Make them feel at home as much as possible.
Crate training comes in handy here. If your dog isn’t already crate trained, this is a perfect time to do it. Make the crate a safe and fun place for the dog, stocked with things it loves. Don’t put the crate in the same room where the baby sleeps. The baby will cry at night and this will upset the dog.
Pet gates are another good idea for separating dog and child. With a pet gate, they can be in the same room but safely away from each other. If you decide to get a pet gate, get it long before the baby arrives so your dog can get used to it. If you get it with the baby, the dog may associate it negatively with the baby.
Getting Your Dog Ready to Meet the Grandbaby
Bring toys, furniture and other things for the baby into the house long before its arrival so that your dog can get used to them. This includes blankets, toys, eating utensils, strollers and anything else the baby will use. Put baby oil or baby powder on these objects so that your dog will get used to the scent. You can also put baby oil or powder on your hands when petting your dog.
Get a CD of baby sounds such as crying and laughing and play it before the baby arrives. These are the sounds your dog will here after the baby comes and it will be less stressful if they can get used to them before. It’s one less thing that will be new and it won’t be strange.
One way to get your dog used to the idea of a baby is to get a doll and play with it with the dog. Add baby scents to the doll as well. Let the dog sniff and explore so that it gets used to the baby.
You can also take the stroller out when you walk your dog. Make the stroller a regular part of your outings. Put baby things and maybe your doll in the stroller. Teach your dog to heel when walking behind the stroller.
Sticking to Routine
Routine is important to dogs. When this routine is upset by a new family member, this can cause stress. There are two ways of dealing with changing routines for a dog when introducing a grandbaby. One is to make sure that, even with the new little one around, you stick strictly to your dog’s regular routine.
Another strategy is to start varying the routine in the weeks or months before the baby’s first arrival. Walk, feed and play with your dog at various times. It will get used to the varied routine. With the grandbaby around, you may need more flexibility and this will allow your dog to get used to that. You don’t want your dog to associate changes in its precious routine with the new person.
The Big Day
When you first introduce the baby, have a parent or someone else carry it in. This tells the dog that the baby is part of the family. It shows that you’re caring and nurturing for the baby and hopefully this will trigger your dog’s protective, pack-minded instincts.
If, because of your dog’s breed or temperament, you want to be extra safe, you can introduce the two outside for the first time. Dogs generally feel less threatened when outside. In the house, they may feel closed in.
It’s important that your dog feels free to move around. Don’t hold the dog when introducing it to the baby. This can trigger its natural defense mechanisms.
Throughout the encounter, watch your dog’s body language carefully. If it’s showing curiosity about the baby, this is a good sign. If your dog shows signs of fear or aggression, you should remove the baby and try again later. These signs include:
- Turning away
- Licking its lips
- Panting even though it’s not hot
- Showing the whites of its eyes
If there are discipline problems, react to them as calmly as possible. If you’re relaxed, your dog will be more likely to calm down. Keep in mind that the discomfort or fear your dog feels now at this initial meeting will get better over time.
Positive reinforcement works best when introducing dogs and babies. You may want to keep snacks or treats on or near the baby. As the dog sniffs and explores, you can reward them for their good behavior.
Dogs often feel threatened or jealous of the attention babies get, so make sure your dog is getting plenty of the attention it needs. In fact, you may want to give it even more attention than usual and plenty of positive reinforcement. Don’t focus all of your attention on the baby when the dog is around.
Take the process of introducing your grandchild as slowly as your dog needs for it to go. Watch their behavior and keep everyone safe, and soon enough your dog will get used to the new family member.