Bringing a baby home from the hospital is an exciting time. Not just for you, but for your German Shepherd puppy as well. For most new parents, though, the thought of that initial introduction is a bit nerve-wrecking.
Most parents aren’t exactly sure how to facilitate the first meeting, what they can do to prepare, and what steps they can take to ensure long-term success.
Here’s the good news: Preparing your German Shepherd for family introductions isn’t complicated. A few quick steps – like introducing your puppy to baby noises and new smells – can help make your puppy’s first time meeting your baby a success. We’ve highlighted some tips you can use for introducing your German Shepherd puppy to a newborn.
German Shepherd Family Introductions: First Steps
A successful family introduction for a German Shepherd starts many weeks before your delivery date. Introducing new smells, working on training, and socialization can all help your German Shepherd get ready to meet your new addition! As your due date nears, here are some important steps you can take to prepare your puppy for meeting baby:
- Introduce New Smells, Sounds & Friends
Many new sounds and smells will fill your home in the coming weeks, and grandparents and friends will be stopping in to meet the baby. This excitement can stress your puppy out, causing him to get overexcited. That’s why you should familiarize your puppy with new sights, sounds and smells before the baby comes home.
Try rubbing baby lotion onto your hands, and having your puppy sniff from a safe distance. Your goal should be curious, but a respectful puppy. Similarly, recordings of babies crying will help your pup avoid getting overexcited when hearing these noises for the first time. Also, be sure your dog is prepared for lots of visitors; this is a good time to work on socialization.
- Solidify Basic Commands
You’ll want to establish your leadership in the weeks leading up to the due date. On daily walks, make sure your puppy is following commands. Work in the backyard on other training and commands. If you’re having any problems, now is the perfect time to schedule a session with a trainer.
- Set Ground Rules
Your home will be undergoing lots of changes as well, with new furniture, gates, and bedding moving in. Set ground rules with your dog about this new furniture. To start, make the nursery off-limits, especially for the first few months. Also, don’t allow your German Shepherd puppy to sleep, climb or jump up on any baby furniture.
- Introduce Your Baby’s Scent to Your Puppy
After the baby arrives, but before he has come home, bring a small item of his clothing home with you. (A burp cloth or nursery hat works great!) This will allow you to introduce your newborn’s scent to the puppy. When you bring the clothing item home, make sure your puppy sniffs from a safe distance, and reward calm sniffing.
How to Introduce Your Baby and Your German Shepherd
The initial introduction might cause you to become nervous, thinking about how it might go. It’s important, though, that you maintain the lead, reward positive behavior, and take it all in small steps. A few tips for introducing your German Shepherd to your baby include:
- Prepare Your Puppy for the Moment
You’ll want your puppy to be calm and relaxed for the introduction. Start by taking your puppy for a long walk. This will help him burn off extra energy and naturally calm down. If your puppy is just overexcited – he might not have seen you for a few days, after all! – it’s best to wait until your puppy has calmed down to introduce your baby.
- Pay Attention to Your Emotions
Your puppy mirrors your emotions in many situations. If you’re calm and relaxed, your puppy will be too. It can be difficult to stay calm, especially after your body begins to rebalance hormones and if you’ve had a few long nights at the hospital. If you’re not ready for the moment, rest up and wait.
- Start with Small Steps
OK, your puppy is calm, and you’ve just returned from a long walk. Now, you’re ready to let puppy and baby meet. Start slowly! Have one adult hold the baby, while the invites the animal into the room. Your puppy will likely want to sniff. Just make sure he’s not getting too excited, barking excessively or getting too close.
Start at a safe distance, a few feet away is best. Then you can slowly allow your puppy to get closer if he stays calm. If your puppy is too excited, it’s best to retry again later.
- Use Rewards to Reinforce Positive Behavior
If your puppy shows positive behaviors, have treats or a new toy handy. This will help him have positive associations with the baby. You might offer a new toy after your puppy has sniffed from a safe distance and is remaining calm.
Long-Term Success: What to Do After Your Introduction
After the initial introduction, there are some steps you can take to ensure safety and help ease the transition for your puppy. Here are a few tips:
- Supervision Is Always Important
You should always keep a close eye on your puppy when he is in the same room with the baby. Never leave them alone together in the same room, as puppies can nip, get to close, or invade a baby’s personal space.
- Maintain Routines with Your Puppy
German Shepherd puppies are working dogs. And they need to exercise daily to stay happy. Maintaining daily walks and training can be difficult for new parents, but it’s especially important. Try to keep the routine as normal as possible.
Chances are your routine will change. So, it’s best to alter the routine in the weeks leading up to the due date. Make a few small changes daily, until you’re in a routine that will closely resemble your post-delivery routine.
- Teach Baby about Boundaries
In the first year, your baby will grow quickly, start crawling and moving. You’ll have to help him learn to be a friend to your puppy. Teach him not to pull tails, get in your puppy’s space, and make sure your German Shepherd’s food and toys aren’t within your baby’s crawling zone. This can help prevent any territorial issues from cropping up.
Bottom Line: Your Baby’s Safety Is No. 1 Concern
When it comes to an initial introduction, it’s very important to review your puppy’s behavior. If you’re noticing any problem behaviors – intense smelling or nosing, barking, hyperactivity, jumping up or aggressiveness – keep your baby away from the dog, until you can schedule a session with your trainer. A trainer can help to determine the cause of problematic behavior and provide actionable tips for reversing behaviors.
Do you need a training refresher to prepare your puppy for a new baby? Schedule a session with Misty Ridge today. We bring decades of German Shepherd training experience and can help you prepare for a successful family introduction.