Dogs and babies: what you need to know

When it comes to babies and pets, many people get scared. Will the dog be jealous? Could the baby get sick? Will chaos reign? If you approach things carefully, you can look forward to a harmonious family life with both your dog and your baby.

So cute! But it's not always good for dogs and babies to be this close to each other.
So cute! But it's not always good for dogs and babies to be this close to each other.  © 123RF/hannamariah

Is it bad if the dog licks the baby? Will my dog bite my baby? Do I have to get rid of my dog because I'm pregnant?

Questions like these can be very unsettling, but they don't have to be. However, some things are necessary for babies and dogs to happily and healthily coexist.

First off, it's important to gradually introduce the dog to the new sounds, smells, and objects that will come with the baby. The earlier, the better – ideally this should happen before the newborn moves in.

PetHelpful recommends playing baby noises, first on a low volume, then louder and in the same room, to help familiarize dogs with the inevitable crying and cooing.

Also, take advantage of the time before the baby comes to get the dog used to the fact that, from now on, it will be getting less attention than before.

Hygiene guidelines for dog and baby

Some things are exaggerated when it comes to hygiene and dogs. But one thing is undeniable: the baby's immune system is not yet fully developed. That means you do need to be more careful when a dog is part of the household.

This is what matters most:

  • Dogs should never lick the baby's face. Preferably, the dog shouldn't come near the baby's head.
  • If the baby comes into a household with pets, you should clean more often than before.
  • The dog also needs to be carefully checked for parasites and brushed regularly. However, even when a baby is present, excessive grooming (for example excessive bathing) can damage the dog's skin.
Children and dogs can become best friends if the boundaries are clearly defined.
Children and dogs can become best friends if the boundaries are clearly defined.  © 123RF/Oksana Kuzmina

Martin Rütter offers helpful advice

Martin Rütter, a dog expert from Germany, also has some tips for dog-owning parents-to-be that can help make life safer.

In the article A baby is moving in - rules for dog owners, he says you should start training your dog long before the baby is born, by getting it used to all the things that its new housemate will need, step by step. This will help the dog know which things it can play which and which things are off limits well before the baby arrives.

Rütter also recommends that the baby room be out of bounds for the dog, while the dog's sleeping spot should also be off limits for the baby. Both of them need to feel like they have their own safe space when they need a moment alone.

In addition, it's important to make it clear from the beginning that the parents and not the dog are the ones protecting the child. If the dog feels responsible for the child, it may also try some parenting of its own. In other words, the dog might snap at the baby if it doesn't do what the dog wants.

New smells, new possessions, new rules: the dog has a lot to process and relearn. Dog owners should take their time getting their pet ready for the baby.

Cover photo: 123RF/hannamariah

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