Sometimes, just the thought of introducing your human baby to your furry babies can send a hormonal pregnant mama into an anxiety riddled tailspin! BUT, I promise that when simply done thoughtfully and purposefully, this introduction can be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
Fortunately, Kyle and I didn't have any really serious concerns when it came to introducing our dogs, Schatzi and LT, to our first baby. We were still cautious nonetheless. We did lots of reading early on in my pregnancy and came up with a plan.
Here is what has worked for us ::
set up baby gear early || In order to make sure we weren't making lots of changes for the dogs at once, we were sure to acclimate them slowly over time. Months before I was due, we started putting together baby's furniture, swing, pack n' play, etc. Not only did we assemble all of the baby gear but we left it out where the dogs had access to it.
allow your pet explore baby's things || We gave our dogs the freedom to sniff around and explore baby's things. Just as a new sofa or kitchen table, these items are new and permanent fixtures in our home, maybe even an indication of change to come. Regardless, we gave the dogs ample time to get used to the new gear before we brought home the new roommate. ;)
exchange linens after birth || This was by far the most common bit of advice we encountered during our research! Have dad bring baby's already worn hat, blanket or onesie home from the hospital for the dogs to smell. We didn't let our dogs "handle" baby's clothes, he just held it out for them to smell. Once the dogs appeared uninterested in the clothing, we then placed them in either the crib or swing. Be sure to watch the dogs after you do this! They could give you a good opportunity to correct them from for "grabbing" the clothing out of the crib or swing. (Our dogs remained uninterested though.)
be deliberate with your actual introduction || When it is time to bring baby into your home, make sure you brush up on your dog language, aka body language and evaluate your family's "pack" dynamic. In our home, the dogs follow commands best from me, however they are more responsive to Kyle's correction. We decided that it would be best if I held the baby (showing the dogs baby is mine) while Kyle brought the dogs in to meet her (controlling them and easily making a correction if necessary.) We chose baby's room for the introduction as that is "baby's territory." (Not that the dogs aren't allowed in there but simply because it was full of baby things.) Kyle came into the house first and let the dogs out back while baby and I came inside. I put the baby down on the floor in her room while she was still in her carseat and went to greet the dogs myself. After being in the hospital for a couple of days, the dogs would be excited to see me too. Once I had sufficiently greeted them, I went back to the baby's room, got her out of her seat and held her on the floor. Kyle put the dogs on their leashes and walked them into the room. I was extra mindful to be calm as the dogs feed off of that energy. As we expected, the dogs each sniffed and licked the baby's face briefly, then went about their business. Perfect!
follow through || Even though the introduction went well, our work wasn't done. There was still a serious adjustment period ahead for everyone! We made a conscious effort to continue giving the dogs appropriate attention and exercise. Just because our main focus is on the baby, that doesn't mean the dogs are any less important or in need. Of course, we continued watching the dogs' interaction with baby and baby's things. Things like destroying clothing or toys, general misbehavior, urinating on baby or baby's things, etc could be signs of an adjustment issue that needs to be addressed immediately.
Above all, watching our daughter (and soon our son) develop such a special, meaningful relationship with our dogs has been an incredible experience for us as parents. Our children are lucky to grow up with such loving furry friends.