How to Introduce Your Sheltie to Your Baby
How will your Sheltie react to your newborn baby the day you bring them home? Here are 13 tips for introducing your dog to the new baby of the family.
When you bring your newborn baby home for the first time, you're probably concerned about how your Sheltie will react.
Unbelievably, many people surrender their dogs to shelters because they're worried about their dog expressing signs of jealousy of the new baby. There's real fear that an anxious or jealous dog will snap and harm the baby.
As awful as that would be, it's too sad that people give up on their dogs when it can be avoided with some preparation and desensitization.
Because many families have successfully introduced dogs to their babies without any negative effects. And with a sensitive breed like the Sheltie, it's totally doable.
We've been through this twice now in recent years. First when Howard and Piper met our new baby son, Fox, in 2012. The Shelties were four years old at the time.
I was pretty worried about keeping them all apart. One persistent fear was that they'd tip over the bassinet while Fox was in it! I didn't really expect them to bite or attack him, but when you've just had a baby you're extremely emotional and paranoid about your baby's safety.
Of course, I needn't have worried. The Shelties were lovely and gentle with him. They automatically knew this was a precious thing to protect.
We did the whole dog vs baby introduction again in 2019, when we introduced our Shelties to baby Kea. By now they were ten years old and expert at living with little ones, knowing that babies can pull fur hard and you should give them a wide berth!
Psychologically, though, if you've not had kids around before and are used to babying your Sheltie then you need to make some preparations. Here's what to do:
Prepare Your Sheltie in Advance
Your Sheltie is used to your attention and pampering, and perhaps even being the baby of the family. So it's likely that at least some jealousy will surface when your newborn becomes the center of attention.
Let's break him in gently.
Consider the following precautions and remember that a few minutes of extra quality time and treats can go a long way.
- Encourage friends with babies to visit your home. This will help accustom your dog to babies in general, as well as babies being in his house. Supervise all dog and baby interactions, and in particular watch out for growling which is a big warning sign that your Sheltie will snap if pushed any further.
- Let your Sheltie explore the new baby's sleeping area. This introduces your dog to your baby before they actually arrive! Let him sniff all the new clothes and baby gear to get used to the smells. Put baby lotion or powder to your hands and allow your Sheltie a good whiff. Dogs rely heavily on their sense of smell, so creating familiarity with baby smells now will help him recognize your baby as a part of the family when they arrive.
- Don't allow your dog to sleep on the baby's furniture or play with their toys. Your Sheltie should know the furniture isn't for him. Instead, provide dog toys that don't resemble baby toys. You don't want your Sheltie to steal toys away from your growing baby and in the process, upset or injure them.
- Install a pet gate or baby gate early. This will let your Sheltie know the new boundaries before your baby arrives and it won't come as a big surprise. Pet gates and baby gates create physical barriers that still allow your dog to see and hear what's happening in the room. He'll feel less isolated from the family and more comfortable with the new baby noises this way.
- Take your dog to your vet for a complete check-up before the baby arrives. Worms and parasites can be harmful to your baby so be sure to de-worm your dog before the baby arrives (and at regular intervals thereafter, usually four times per year) to keep on top of this problem. If your dog is not spayed or neutered, this is also the time to get it done.
- Ensure your Sheltie understands his place in the pack. You and your family are alpha over him. This is crucial to ensure you can correct your dog (and he'll take you seriously) should any jealousy arise when the baby comes home. If he walks all over you then he'll walk all over baby too.
Introduce Sheltie to Baby
The first introduction of your dog to your newborn baby is most important. This can actually dictate how your dog responds to your baby hereafter. So it's worth doing slowly and getting it right.
- Let another person hold your newborn while you greet your dog. Your best friend has missed you and it's important to pay attention to him when you first get home, especially if you've been away in hospital for a few days.
- Greet your Sheltie happily and bring him a new toy or treat. This creates a positive association with the baby. After your dog's excitement about your homecoming has dissipated you can start introducing your baby to your Sheltie first hand.
- If you are unsure of your Sheltie, leash him during the introduction. Talk to your dog and encourage him to have a good sniff of the baby's hands and feet. Don't be a germophobe - your baby needs to build a good immune system. In fact, scientific studies have found that living with dogs is a proven way to prevent asthma, hay fever and eczema in children.
- Don't force a reluctant dog by pushing your baby toward him. Allow your Sheltie to explore the baby at his own pace. Never leave your baby unsupervised with him, however, as an infant is incapable of pushing an animal away. Your dog may inadvertently scratch or even smother the child. What's more, your baby's actions may scare your dog and cause him to snap or bite in self-defense. If you notice any signs of your dog reacting aggressively, contain him in another room until he's calm and try the introduction again.
- After the initial greeting, bring your pet to sit next to the baby. Reward your Sheltie with treats for good behavior like gentle sniffing, tail wagging and giving the baby space. Remember, you want your Sheltie to view the new baby as a positive development.
- Maintain these routines to help your pet adjust to the newborn. Always supervise your baby and your Sheltie when they're together. In time, your little one will understand the rules about handling the dog and likewise, your dog will become secure enough to respect your child as a member of the family. And even though your baby may be a priority now, make sure you still spend one-on-one time with your Sheltie every day. It will help relax you, too.
As is seen in countless homes around the world, dogs and babies can co-exist without any dramas. With proper preparations and supervision, your Sheltie will be able to live happily ever after with your new expanded family.