Introducing your dog to your baby

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Whitehorse Veterinary Hospital
231 Whitehorse Road
VIC 3130

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03 9878 3033
03 9877 5129

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Monday to Friday: 8am - 8pm
Saturday: 8am - 4pm
Sunday: 9am - 1

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The arrival of a human baby into the home can be associated with a great deal of anxiety, excitement, and stress for not only the family, but also the family pet.

There are so many different variables that it is impossible to accurately predict the way that any pet might get along with children. However, there are considerations that give some insight into how your pet might react. Any existing behaviour problem should be resolved before the arrival of your baby.

How has your pet reacted when it has been exposed to children? How much exposure has your pet previously had to children and how did it react? If there have been previous problems you should consult with your veterinary professional to determine the situations that have previously led to aggression, and the safest way, if any, to make the transition.

A lack of early socialization to children may lead to some initial anxiety or fear associated with the sights, sounds and smells of the new child. It is crucial that the first few introductions are made as positive experiences. Even if a pet has shown no previous problems when interacting with children, keeping all interactions positive will help to get the relationship off to a good start.

As your child progresses from being carried, to one that rolls, crawls, and begins to walk, some pets may have trouble adapting. Fear, dominance challenges, possessive displays, and playful behaviors could result in aggression.  Signs that your dog is not coping include reduced appetite, compulsive disorders (flank sucking and lick dermatitis), or destructiveness (house soiling, marking, chewing and digging).



With nine months or more to prepare for a baby's arrival, the best way to minimize problems and help your pet to cope is to make changes gradually.

  • Set up the nursery in advance and teach your pet that it cannot have access to this room. If you are going to allow your pet into the nursery when supervised, begin to accompany your pet into the room, so that is can adapt to the new smells and set up.
  • Decide on sleeping arrangements NOW. Don't change things after the baby arrives. If your pet is sleeping in your bedroom or has his favorite spot on the end of your bed, now is the time to set boundaries and possibly move them to another room or pop them outside.
  • Playing tape recordings or videos of babies crying, holding a doll wrapped in a blanket, taking your dog for a walk beside the stroller, and even going through the motions of changing a nappy and using baby wipes with your pet nearby will help your pet become familiar with these new activities associated with child care.
  • Don't forget to praise your pet so it can develop a positive association with each of these new cues. By providing your pet with his/her favourite toy, favourite treat, or providing extra attention during these activities, your pet may learn to enjoy these new stimuli.

Adapting to changes in the household are often the most trying for cats. Obtaining new furniture, altering the cats feeding, sleeping, elimination of play areas, and trying to keep the cat out of certain locations such as the cot, should all be considered before the arrival of the baby.

To reduce the chances of the cat urine marking new furniture, the first few introductions to new areas should be well supervised. Once your cat has investigated and rubbed against the new furniture, spraying is far less likely. Ask our staff about an anti-stress pheromone spray to promote a calm state in cats. Ask our staff about an anti-stress pheromone spray to promote a calm state in cats.


The first few days while the baby is still in hospital, there are things you can do to further prepare your pet for the arrival of your new baby. This includes

  • Bringing home used baby clothes and nappies for your pet to smell prior to bringing home the baby.
  • Bundle both of the used items and leave in the cot or pram
  • Reward your dog for displaying good behaviour after smelling the new items with his/her favourite treat or toy, taking them for a walk or a play in the park.

Progress gradually and avoid any situations that may lead to fear, anxiety or discomfort in the baby's presence.

  • Maintain or even increase the amount and type of training, exercise or play.
  • Keep your pets nails well trimmed.
  • Supervise all interactions between pet and baby.
  • The most important aspect of training is to reward the pet for obedient and relaxed behaviour in the presence of the child.

While focused on the child, or attending to chores associated with parenthood, the pet may be ignored, disciplined for approaching too close, or confined to a different area of the home. Every effort should be made to allow the pet into the room for food, play or affection when the baby is present.

Feed the pet when the baby is being fed, or do some reward training, take your dog outdoors for play or walk when you are taking the child out in the pram. Try and include the pet in activities that you do with your child. The goal is to teach the pet that positives or 'good things' are most likely to happen in the presence of the child.

For the health of not only your pet but your newborn, before the newborn arrives, bring your pet down to see doctors Shaun, Rod or Xia to ensure your pet is in full health and up to date with vaccinations, flea treatment and worming.

To discuss the specifics of your pet and your individual circumstances, call us on 9878 3033 to make an appointment.

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