Having a family pet can be a treasured experience for kids of all ages, creating lasting memories and promoting a love and respect for animals. But if you have a pet before having children or are about to bring a new baby into the family, it’s important to prepare your home and pet before their new sibling arrives. Doing so can ensure that both baby and pet grow up in a safe and happy home. Here are eight steps you can take to introduce your new baby to your pets, including four to take before the baby arrives and four to take after bringing the baby home.

Before the New Baby Is Here

Image via Flickr by bortecristian Licensed CC BY 2.0

Whether you’re expecting a new baby or adopting, there are four key steps you can take to make sure your home and your dogs and cats are ready for this exciting change.

Take Your Pets for a Checkup

In the months before your new bundle of joy comes home, you should take your pets to the veterinarian for a regular checkup to make sure your furry friend is healthy. At this time, you should also consider getting your pet spayed or neutered, which can help reduce unwanted or aggressive behaviors, like nipping. This appointment is also a good time to get your pet’s nails trimmed and start making it a habit to help prevent scratches.

Play Pretend With a Baby Doll

While you and your pets will both know it’s not a real baby, a baby doll can actually help get your pet used to new furniture, noisy toys, and new habits. Try these exercises:

  • Play with the different toys with the baby doll to get the pet used to hearing these noises and to realize these toys are not for them. 
  • Practice changing the baby using the lotions and powders you’ll use on your little one to help your pet get used to new smells. 
  • Put the baby doll in the stroller and train your dog to walk calmly and slowly alongside it.
  • Pretend to feed the baby on the couch or in the high chair, or have tummy time on the baby’s blanket. Then, train your pet to calmly go to the spot where you’ll want them to go during actual feeding or tummy time.

All of these exercises give your pet a safe time and space to have its initial reactions to these new things, in case its first reaction is less than ideal. It also gives your pet a chance to get used to these new experiences and practice the behaviors you will want to see.

Train Out Unwanted Habits

Consult your veterinarian or seek out a local pet trainer to stop your pet from exhibiting unwanted or aggressive behaviors, such as biting, jumping on people when they’re excited, or jumping onto furniture. Training before the baby comes home means your pet doesn’t have to learn new rules and get accustomed to the new baby at the same time.

The Stellar Dog provides behavioral consultations and training to correct negative behaviors. They even have sessions specifically for preparing your pup for the new baby. Unleashed Unlimited offers free training consultations, private and group training classes, and a board and train program to curb unwanted behaviors, including those unique to your family.

Create a Pet-Only Area

Set up an area for your pet to go as a safe space, with a bed, their food, some treats, and their favorite toys. You might put this space in a spare room or hallway nook away from the hustle and bustle of the house. Then, train them to retreat to this space during baby-only times or help them simply get comfy in the space so it becomes their retreat in the future.

In addition, store pet food, medicines, toys, and other pet items in an area where your baby cannot get to them, as they can be hazardous to a child. Likewise, baby ointments and toys can be hazardous to your pet, so find a secure place to store those, too.

After the New Baby Is Here

Now that the baby is about to come home, it’s important to follow these four steps to ensure they stay safe and happy during their first meeting and life together.

Introduce Your Pets and Baby on Neutral Ground

When you’re bringing the baby home for the first time, try to introduce your pets and infant on neutral ground outside the home, such as the sidewalk or driveway. Keep your pet secure, like on a leash, and let your pet look at your baby from a safe distance. 

If you’re unable to introduce them outside your home, just make sure your pet and your baby are secure. Stay calm and use positive reinforcement as your pet observes the baby from a safe distance.

Make Feeding Time Special for Baby and Pet

Feeding time is an intimate moment between parent and child, and pets can sense that. But you can make sure your pet doesn’t feel left out by giving them special treats when the baby is fed. Consistently have your pet go to their pet-only place, lay on the ground near where the baby is being fed, or do whatever it is you want them to do during feeding time. This positive reinforcement helps your pet create positive associations with the baby and this special time. 

Maintain a Safe Baby-Pet Relationship

Always supervise any interactions between your pets and your baby, even if it seems like the two are getting along. Observe how your pet reacts to the baby in different settings or situations, such as during tummy time or when playing with noisy toys. Identify signs of aggression, be swift about separating your baby and pet if things start to get out of hand, and consult your trainer or veterinarian about negative behaviors.

You can set up a see-through baby gate to keep your pet from entering baby-only spaces, like where they sleep or get changed. You can also use the gate to have baby-only time in your home’s public space while allowing your pet to roam other areas. Be sure to give your pet treats during baby-only time as positive reinforcement for staying calm.

Have Pet-Only Time

You can also put your baby to sleep or in their playpen and dedicate time to your pet. Play with their favorite toys and give them lots of love.

At Crème de la Crème of Cedar Park on Lakeline Boulevard, we know how important your child’s safety is. That’s why we’ve implemented a number of safety measures and trained all of our staff to provide a safe and welcoming learning environment for every child. Contact us today to learn more about how our daycare and after-school programs can set your children up for success.