Pets and children can quickly become best pals, but it’s important to ease your pet into their new life with a little human sibling. There are many steps you can take to prepare your dog or cat before you bring a new child into the home and make the transition a bit easier. Here’s everything you need to know about introducing a new human baby to your fur baby.

Before the baby is born or brought home

A newborn baby lays next to the cat on the couch at home in Alpharetta, GA

white and black cat lying beside baby” used with permission via Unsplash by Manja Vitolic

Whether you’re going to give birth or adopt, you can use the following steps to prep your pet for the new family member:

Take your pet for a checkup

During the months before the baby arrives, take your dog or cat to the vet to make sure they’re up on their vaccines, have enough heartworm, flea-and-tick, and other medicine, and are in good health. If your pets aren’t spayed or neutered already, consider getting this procedure done since it can help reduce aggressive behaviors like nipping. For cats, start getting their claws trimmed regularly so they can get used to this process.

Play pretend with a baby doll

Who said that playing pretend was just for kids? Pretending that a baby doll is a real baby can be a great tool for getting your pet used to the new furniture, your new tasks and behaviors, and their new place in the family. That way your pet isn’t overwhelmed by all of the new things all at once when the baby arrives.

Feed your baby doll, play with it, put it down in the crib, have it sit in the swing, and change its diaper. If you plan to walk your dog while walking the stroller, sit the baby doll in the stroller and go for a few walks to safely practice getting your dog to walk slowly and heel.

Change any unwanted habits now

Get serious about training your pet to do or avoid certain behaviors. Maybe you want your pet to stop laying on the bed when you sleep or sitting on the couch. Or, maybe you want your pet to sit in a specific area during your baby’s feeding or tummy time. Grab that baby doll and some of your pet’s favorite treats, and start training your pet with the behaviors and habits you want them to have. Consider working with a professional pet trainer or your vet, attending doggy training classes, or testing out some tricks from pet training videos online.

Create a pet-only area

Establish one space, such as the laundry room, office, or area in the living room away from the baby stuff, that’s just for your pet. Put in a comfy dog bed, cozy cat tree, or a kennel, add some new toys, and be prepared with treats. In the weeks before your baby comes home, let your pet spend a lot of time there to get used to it and really make it their own personal space, which can be vital as your child grows up.

After the baby is born or about to come home

Now that your new bundle of joy is ready to come home, here’s what you can do in the early stages of the transition:

Use the blanket or onesie trick

Dress your baby in a onesie or wrap them in a blanket. Then, have a loved one bring that item home for your pet to sniff. While they do, give them lots of pets and treats to help them associate the new smell with positive feelings. 

This can be a handy trick to start the transition, but many trainers warn against using it as an end-all be-all. That’s because it can take time for a pet to truly associate the smell with positive feelings, and there’s no guarantee that the smell will even trigger a positive response.

Introduce your baby and pet on neutral ground

Pets that have been in your life and home for months or years before you bring a baby home can be a bit territorial. That’s why it’s best to leash up or crate your pet and bring them to a neutral area of your property, like the sidewalk in front of the house or the parking lot outside an apartment. Hold your baby at a safe distance, letting your pet take in the smell they recently smelled on that blanket or onesie.

Give your pet a special treat while feeding the baby

Trainers believe that pets can sense how intimate feeding time between parent and baby can be, so they encourage pet owners/parents of a new baby to give their pet an extra special treat during baby’s feeding time. This allows your pet to get some special positive attention, too, and when pets are rewarded for being a good boy or girl during feeding time, they’re more likely to exhibit positive behavior during future feeding times.

Dedicate special pet time

Though it’s a challenge to juggle parenthood and pet-parenthood, try to split some time between caring for your baby and spending time with just your pet. Consider spending one night a week having the baby sit in their playpen while you play with your pet using their favorite toy or just snuggle with them. 

Channel good energy

Pets can sense emotions and react to them, so remaining as calm as possible when you’re with the baby and your pet can let your pet know that everything is okay. This can make the transition smoother, too.

Consult a professional animal trainer at any time

Consider working with a trainer during any point in your transition to bring a new baby home to your pet. This can help ensure your home is safe and comfortable for every member of your family, furry or not. You might enlist the help of a trainer to get a pet to unlearn unwanted behaviors before the baby comes home or reduce aggressive or territorial behaviors in a pet after the baby comes home.

In and around Alpharetta, you have access to many experienced trainers who can help with behavioral training, provide boarding and training programs, and even train in your home. Some even offer regular classes for dog graduates to help maintain good behavior.At Crème de la Crème of Alpharetta on Haynes Bridge Road, we, too, want the best for your child as they grow up. That’s why we offer many childcare options for your kids, from infant age all the way up through elementary school. Contact us to learn more about the daycare, before- and after-school programs, and summer camps your children can thrive in.