Snuggly pooches and chunky-cheeked babies: Just about nothing is cuter than pets and babies, right? But after finding out you're pregnant, many new parents wonder if they can keep their dog once their newborn arrives.
"Your pet is part of your family," explains Cindy Gellner, MD, a board-certified pediatrician at the University of Utah. "Adopting out your pet is a last resort."
Cuteness aside, can you keep your dog without worrying your baby will be safe?
Train Your Dog Before Baby Arrives
It's 3am, and your infant starts screaming bloody murder.
A baby's cries, unexpected jerks, and screams can stress adults out, let alone animals - especially when they've never spent time around children.
For both dog and baby, a good goal is to get them calm and comfortable around each other. Teach your dog how to calm down before baby comes by making sure your dog is well-trained and can follow basic commands like sit, down, and stay.
"A well-behaved dog is always good - new baby or not," Gellner reminds us. Training your dog not to jump on others - for example - will protect your newborn (and yourself) when you're pregnant.
Take Advantage of Smells
Because dogs use smells (called olfactory sense) to recognize their surroundings, you can reduce stress and surprise by familiarizing your dog to your new baby's scent.
"When your baby is born, ask the nursery to let you bring home a hat or shirt that your baby wore on their first day of life and let your pet smell it so they get familiar with the scent of their new family member," says Gellner.
Gellner also advises parents to prepare ahead by letting your dog spend time in the baby's nursery.
Don't Leave Dog & Baby Alone Together
For the first few years, make sure your dog will behave calmly and safely around your child. "This new baby is invading their space and some animals can be pretty aggressive," says Gellner. If you can't supervise your baby and your dog at the same time, consider putting your dog in an enclosed room or a pen, or taking her to a friend's house.
"While those cute pictures of babies and pets are pretty adorable, don't underestimate that, until your pet feels comfortable with their new human sibling, they are going to be territorial," adds Gellner.
Don't forget to use positive conditioning (like treats) to reward your dog when she behaves well, especially around your baby.
Pets For Better Health?
To avoid the heartbreak of giving your dog up for adoption, new parents can use:
- and smell therapy
to ensure dogs behave calmly and obediently around newborns.
Don't forget that keeping your pet doesn't just benefit you. Pets may make babies healthier by preventing allergies and strengthening the immune system, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. How cute is that?