A family pet can be a blessing for children of all ages, giving your kids many treasured memories for years to come. But if you have pets before you bring children into your family, there are steps you can take to prepare your dog or cat for their new human sibling. Creating a comfortable environment for both pet and child can ensure that your children grow up in a safe and happy home. Use these six steps to effectively introduce your new baby or young child to your pet.

Take Your Pet for a Checkup

A dog is introduced to a new baby at a family home in Glenview, Illinois

Dog waiting for Christmas presents with Children” licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr by shixart1985

One of the first things you can do is to take your pet to the veterinarian for a checkup. The doctor can check your pet for any health conditions, make sure they’re up-to-date on their shots and medications, and consult on any behavioral issues you’re concerned about. If your pet isn’t spayed or neutered yet, consider doing so before your new bundle of joy comes home — it can actually help reduce aggressive behavior, like nipping, and calm them down. 

This is also a good time to get your cat’s nails trimmed. Start making this habit, if you don’t already. Grooming them regularly can better protect you and the new kiddo from scratches.

Start Preparing Your House Months Before the Child Arrives

In the months before you have a new baby or adopt a child, you should set up the child’s nursery and place some toys out in the public spaces. Play with the toys that make noise to get your pet used to hearing these new sounds. Let your pet sniff these new items and even baby wipes and powder so they can get used to these smells, too. 

You can also use the baby doll method; get a baby doll and pretend it’s your new child. Place the doll in the crib, playpen, or high chair, play with the baby using the toys, and “change” the baby using the powder and wipes. While it may seem silly, this can be a way to get your pet used to all this new stuff. If you plan to take the dog for a walk alongside the stroller, you can use this time to help them adjust to this new activity.

It’s important to note that these aren’t surefire ways to get your pet adjusted. However, think of it as a practice run to help them feel less stressed and reduce the likelihood of negative reactions when the baby is around.

Make a Safe Space for Your Pet

As you set up baby-only spaces, be sure to set up a pet-only space, too. Dedicate a small room or area in your house, such as the laundry room, a guest room or office, or any tucked away area near the shared living spaces. Fill this space with a comfy bed, your pet’s favorite toys, some food and water, and maybe a few treats to get your pet to love their new retreat.

You can also start training your pet to go to their retreat during baby-only time, like feeding or tummy time, to get your pet get into this habit before the baby is here. As your child grow up, try to keep this space as the pet’s retreat so that you and your pet can stay safe and comfortable.

Consult a Professional Pet Trainer

At any point in this preparation and transition, you can work with a local pet trainer to train your dog or cat out of unwanted behaviors, like jumping, barking, or nipping. Before your child arrives, consider taking your dog to a training class. If this behavior continues or starts up when your child arrives, you can take another class to reinforce the training and get some one-on-one bonding time with your pooch.

What’s great about living in Glenview is that you’re surrounded by many experienced local training centers that offer a variety of training and boarding services. Try Anything Is Pawzible, a local business that provides private consultations for a variety of behavioral issues and obedience training. You can request in-home sessions or attend training at their studio. Or, you can trust Lakeshore K9, which offers day training and private lessons with your pooch, or you can enroll them in a one-week to four-week boarding school where they stay at the facility and get training on leash walking and basic obedience. 

Try to Stay Calm Before and After Your Child Arrives

Pets can sense feelings of stress or anxiety as they observe your body language, and they may react negatively, by becoming aggressive or hiding. That’s why it’s so important to remain as calm as possible throughout the whole process, before your child arrives, during their first introduction to the pet, and as you transition to being a big happy family. Use positive or neutral body language and vocal tones to reassure your pet and keep them calm. You can also think about the best possible outcomes and avoid thinking about worst-case scenarios.

Take It One Step at a Time

When it’s time for the first introduction, take it nice and slow. Have the introduction on neutral ground away from the house, which your pet considers their territory. Then, leash your pet and bring them out to the sidewalk or another location away from your home. Let your pet sniff the baby or child from a safe distance, and gives treats and praise when your pet shows a calm response.

Once it’s time to take the meet-and-greet inside, you can keep the baby and pet separated using a gate and even leave the leash on your dog (but don’t hold it) just in case. Resume the routine you already trained your pet for; lead them to their retreat for baby only time. Try to dedicate pet-only time while the baby sleeps so you can give them attention, too.

At Crème de la Crème of Glenview, we know how important your child’s safety is to you. It’s just as important to us, which is why we use a variety of precautions, including biometric fingerprint scanners at the entrance and eagle-eye cameras throughout the facility, to ensure your children have a safe and welcoming learning environment at our school. Contact us to learn more about our daycare, before-school, and after-school programs.