For many families, their first ‘baby’ was one with four legs and a wagging tail. Your pup may have been the center of your home as long as it’s been part of your family. Now your family is growing, and you’re getting ready to bring home a newborn. There are several ways to safely include your dog in your new baby’s photo sessions.
Many parents put great consideration into the effects that a newborn baby has on a big brother or sister. However, we sometimes forget to anticipate those same effects on a family pet. While there is a difference in the number of legs, there isn’t that much difference between the two in an emotional sense. Feeling ‘displaced,’ or even ‘replaced,’ can be common when it comes to our furry friends.
Let’s face it, change is hard. But there are some great ways to help your whole family, especially your fur baby, acclimate to having a beautiful bouncing baby in the home. As newborn photographers, we believe proper planning can help create a smooth outcome. So we’ve assembled some great tips for helping to create some pet-baby harmony in your home.
During your pregnancy is a great time to start planning and helping your dog prepare for the changes ahead. If your dog already knows basic commands like sit/stay, come, fetch, stop, or no, then you are ahead of the game! If not, consider registering your pet for obedience school. This is also a great time to begin establishing routines for daily walks, feeding, potty breaks, playtime, and even bedtime if you don’t have those in place. Having some structure in place will help you organize your time once your newborn has arrived. It can also help cut down on the amount of change experienced by your furbaby.
Speaking of change, no one likes everything in their world to turn upside-down overnight. So, about 3 months ahead of your delivery date, dive right into the fun of setting up the new nursery. Invite your dog into this new space so they can observe and acclimate to the new smells, furniture, and style of the room. You can even play a recording of baby sounds or nursery songs, things that the puppy will hear once the baby has come home. Be sure to add a safety gate to the entry of the nursery at this stage so that the boundary is already clearly set with your pet of when they can be in that room and when they cannot.
When you head out on those routine walks, bring your stroller and have your dog walk alongside it. Once you are ready to head outdoors with the baby in tow, this activity and the stroller won’t be new or interesting to your dog, so they are less likely to try to jump up or jump inside the stroller to see what’s inside. Instead, it will just feel like the same continuation of their normal going-for-a-walk routine.
Another thing to consider is who will take care of your fur baby when you go into labor. Be sure to connect with a friend or family member who is willing to watch your dog while you’re in the hospital. This may involve making sure that friend has a key to let themselves in. If you have gone into labor in the middle of the night, you won’t be stressed about who will be there to walk your dog in the morning or make sure they are fed.
Now, this might seem like a silly idea, but the American Kennel Clubhttps://www.akc.org/ always recommends that when you take a new puppy home, you take a blanket or an item with the puppy that carries its mothers’ scent. Dogs have a great sense of smell. They also can connect beings, human and animal, with those scents. After the baby is born, the AKC suggests that someone take a blanket or outfit with the baby’s smell on it home to the dog. You don’t want to place it in the dogs’ kennel or bed because that is your pet’s space. Instead, leave it out on a couch or let them sniff it. This helps “introduce” the baby to your beloved pet before actually bringing the baby home.
Of course, if Mom has been away for a few days, everyone is always excited when she comes back. So, it could be a good idea to have someone else carry your newborn into the house when you first return from the hospital. The AKC notes that when a new Mom returns home, her fur baby may be excited and jump up on her. Instead, enter the home using a quiet, calming voice. Use those commands you learned in obedience school to help your dog be calm while still giving them the loves and pets they are after.
Adding a newborn to any home is always going to come with equal amounts of joy and chaos. No matter how hard you’ve planned and prepared, there will always be unforeseen complications. Have a baby gate to keep your nursery as a secure, pet-free zone when needed. Give your dog the same courtesy. Make sure they have an area of their own with a bed and their own toys. Dog toys can be a great distraction when you’re trying to feed a crying baby. It’s also another great way to set boundaries about ‘dog toys’ vs. baby toys. One cardinal rule that will help set everyone on a path to success is always to supervise your dog around the baby.
Of course, just like any parenting journey, there is also a lot of fun to be had, and growing up with a dog can be so beneficial for kids. Be sure to help your fur baby and your baby bond. Once your post-baby-body is ready for it in the early months, take them out for those routine walks. When baby learns to sit up, sit with them, helping your baby learn how to touch and pet your dog safely. Teaching your child boundaries around safe animal handling will not only help create a healthy relationship between the two of them, it’s something that can be especially helpful in public parks or in the homes of friends and family who also have pets.
When you’re ready, we love creating amazing newborn and family portraits with your pet here in the studio or around Orange County. All those commands and having worked on creating a calming atmosphere for your pet when they are around baby can really lend themselves to the success of your portraits.
Not only will the transition of your growing family be easier, but it helps create a relaxed atmosphere for family portraits with your pet. Over the years, we would love to capture their bond with stunning portraits that document their growth together. Contact us and tell us all about your babies!