A family pet and your kids can be best friends for life, making for a wonderful and treasured experience. But if you have pets before bringing children into your family, there are many steps you can take to prepare your dogs and cats for their new brother or sister. That way your pets and children grow up in a safe and happy home. Here are six steps to take before and after a new child arrives to effectively introduce your new bundle of joy to your pets.

Get Your Pet a Check-Up

Cat laying on carpet

Arpagic” licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr by bortescristian

One thing you should do before your new child arrives is to take your pet to the veterinarian for a check-up. They can check your dog or cat for any health issues and consult you on any behavioral issues that you’ve noticed. If your pet isn’t spayed or neutered, you could take this time to do that, too, which can actually reduce aggressive behaviors like nipping and make your pet calmer. Also, have your cat’s claws trimmed regularly to get them used to this grooming that can protect you and your children from scratches. 

Prepare Your House Months Before Your Child Arrives

In the months before you have your new baby or adopt a child, set up your child’s furniture and toys throughout your home. Use toys that make noise to get them used to these sounds, and open baby products like wipes and powder so they can get familiar with new smells. You can also use a baby doll to role play caring for your child, as silly as it may seem. Play with the doll, feed it, change it, and use baby furniture like the stroller, crib, playpen, and carrier with the baby doll in it to better help your pet adjust to its new human sibling. 

While these aren’t surefire ways to fully adjust your pet to their new life, it can get your pup or kitty used to these new items and better alleviate their stress when your child does arrive. These steps are also a safe way to get your dog used to walking alongside the stroller or your pet seeing the swing in operation in case there are negative reactions at first.

Give Your Pet a Safe Space

While you prepare your home for a new child, make sure you also set up a space that’s just for your pet. Dedicate a small area away from the baby’s space, like the laundry room or a spot in an office, just for your dog or cat. Make it as comfortable as possible, with toys, blankets, water, food, and a place to rest, like a pet bed or their crate. Then, use treats and attention to get your pet to love their new retreat. 

You can also practice leading your pet to their retreat while you have baby-only time, like feeding or playtime, to get them used to this new habit. When your child is a bit older, make sure they leave that space alone to keep your pet and your child safe and comfortable as they grow up.

Trust Professional Pet Trainers

You can always consult a pet trainer, before and after your child arrives, to take care of unwanted behaviors, like jumping, barking, or nipping. If your pet has any of these unwanted behaviors before the baby comes, consider attending puppy or dog training classes to learn from a trainer how to squash these bad habits. If the behavior issues occur after you have your child, these classes can help you strengthen your bond with your pet and learn how to reinforce good behavior. And in Mount Laurel, there are many experienced dog training centers you can trust:

  • Alpha and Omega Working Dogs training center specializes in training dogs to be service dogs and scent dogs, but this local business also offers many helpful sessions for obedience training and behavioral modification. 
  • Absolute Control Dog Training offers basic and advanced obedience training for dogs of all ages, private lessons with owners and pets, board-and-train doggy “bootcamp.”
  • Tuff Pup Training offers at-home training, behavioral consultations to find out what’s causing any issues, and clinics on specific behaviors, like no-jump greetings and leash walking.

Keep Calm

Pets can sense your feelings, like anxiety or stress, through your body language. So, it’s best to prepare yourself for early introductions between your child and pet by practicing calm, steady, and otherwise positive body language. If you choose to practice with the baby doll, you could take this time to focus on breathing normally. Negative body language can alarm your pet, while positive or neutral body language assures them everything is OK. Another way to keep yourself calm during these first introductions is to avoid thinking of worst-case scenarios and instead think about cultivating a calm, welcoming atmosphere.

Take Baby Steps

When it’s time to introduce your pets to their new human sibling, take it slow. One trick you can use is to take a piece of clothing or baby blanket from the new child and bring it home for the pet to check out before your child arrives. If you do this, be sure to give the dog or cat treats and pets to try and create a positive connection. However, many trainers do not encourage that parents rely on this trick and use other safe greeting tactics, too.

Start the initial meet-and-greet on neutral ground, away from the house, which your pet considers their sanctuary. Leash your pet and bring them outside to the sidewalk in front of your home or another location away from your house. Let them sniff the baby or child from a safe distance, and treat and praise when they show a relaxed, positive response.

Inside the house, try to keep your pet in their safe space while you play, feed, and spend time with the baby. Then, over time, allow your pet to be nearby when you’re with the baby, using treats and positive attention to make them feel welcome. You should also dedicate pets-only time when the baby is asleep so you can play, cuddle, and give them special attention, too. At Crème de la Crème of Mount Laurel, we provide a safe and welcoming environment for your children to learn. We offer many childcare options, from daycare for infants to before and after-school programs for elementary school aged kids. Contact us to learn more about how our whole-child curriculum can help your children thrive.