How To Introduce Your Dog to Your Baby

by Lexi Notabartolo

small dog and baby together outside on grass

For one Sundays staffer, the Dog Meets Baby course made what can be a stressful process seamless for all involved – human and canine.

To become a parent is to enter a world full of questions that are short on specific answers: Will I ever sleep again? Why is the baby crying? Do I have enough onesies (the good kind, with the two way zippers)? Not all questions have the same level of importance, but before welcoming my child in late 2023, one question dominated my (fractured) sleep: Will Chewie, my 12-year-old Terrier mix, hate the baby? 

A bit of important context: I am a so-called ‘Elder Millennial' which means, in addition to having been present for the first round of JNCO jeans frenzy and the emotional terrorism of MySpace’s Top 8 feature, I was a dog parent long before I was responsible for a human baby. A rescue pup found in a Home Depot parking lot in Los Angeles, Chewie is a fourteen pound spitfire who loves to eat iceberg lettuce and will do everything he can to protect our home from the U.S. Postal Service. Nothing in his adoption papers suggested he had spent much time around kids and he was always pretty skeptical around children when we would encounter one on a walk. What I knew for sure, however, was that he was used to being the only creature in the house doted on and loved on and I was supremely anxious about his reaction to sharing the spotlight.

Enter Dog Meets Baby.

Dominika Knossalla has developed a set of courses to help families before a baby arrives and assist in navigating life’s evolutions that follow. I took two courses from Dog Meets Baby in my seventh month of pregnancy: The Prep Course and The First Meeting course (both can be purchased as the Dog Meets Baby Bundle - a great baby shower gift if I’ve ever seen one). My only regret about the Dog Meets Baby course is that I didn’t find it earlier in my pregnancy.

The Prep Course is a comprehensive overview of how you can best prepare your dog for the arrival of a baby. Right after I adopted him, Chewie and I took obedience classes together but over time I had become lax in reinforcing certain positive behaviors and correcting undesirable ones. He had, to be frank, developed some bad habits. 

What Dog Meets Baby taught me was that by studying my dog’s behavior I could identify which reactions were clustered around Chewie’s triggers and then help him when he was faced with one. By implementing a ‘dog only zone’ with his bed and favorite toys, I was able to quickly calm him when, for example, a package was delivered (that scanner thing delivery drivers use? Major trigger.). This space management strategy hadn’t occurred to me as part of bringing home our baby, but through The Prep Course I understood that the foundation of a healthy introduction would be training myself to identify issues before they became a problem. Even just as a way to reacquaint yourself with behavioral training best practices, I found The Prep Course immensely helpful.

The First Meeting course was where all the foundational skills and strategies in The Prep Course really clicked together for me as part of welcoming home our baby. This course is shorter than The Prep Course and is laser focused on introducing your dog and your baby. I watched these videos in the week leading up to my labor, but if I was to do it again I’d go through this closer to completing The Prep Course so I could better integrate my partner and support network into the process. The course is detailed to the point of offering a step-by-step plan for the first time your dog and baby meet, information that is useful for anyone in the household (or who will be in the household in the first weeks) so they know how to reinforce good behaviors and avoid or deal with triggers.

So, how did it go? Are my baby and my dog besties ready for the ‘gram? 

I’m happy to report that my senior pup has absolutely no interest in our baby. For a tired, working Mom, I’m absolutely thrilled by this outcome. We will have the occasional issue where the dog wants to be on the baby’s nursing pillow or the baby cries close to where the dog is laying but with the skills we built through the Dog Meets Baby courses, Chewie simply gets up and goes to one of his dog only zones and re-settles himself quite happily. He’s learned that when the baby goes to bed, he can be wherever he wants - minus the few ‘baby only zones’ we setup - and get all the pets and snuggles he needs. We’ve had no tussles or negative reactions and I plan to use some of the other Dog Meets Baby resources to help teach our child to respect our dog as they both get older.    

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