Your cats and dogs are part of your family, but when you’re expecting a new baby, you must prepare your pets for your baby’s arrival. Our Crème de la Crème team invites you to learn a few tips for introducing your new baby to your pets.
Training Your Pets in Advance
Starting to train your pets in advance can make the transition smoother when the baby arrives home. Get your pets used to new routines, such as different times for dog walking or possibly more outside time for the cat if you have an indoor/outdoor cat. You will naturally have less time for your animals, and you don’t want it to be an abrupt change that they associate with the arrival of your new bundle of joy.
Focus on your pet’s behaviors that you want to change or adjust, such as jumping up or excessive barking for dogs. Teach your dog a few basic commands, such as sit, down, or stay, as it’s essential they’re trained not to jump up before you bring your new baby home because your baby will often be held in your arms or cradled in your lap. If your dog doesn’t take to training easily, consider getting some extra help by working with a dog trainer, such as Sit Means Sit or What a Great Dog!, to ensure that your dog will be fully trained before you bring your baby home.
If you have a cat that’s used to jumping into your lap freely, it’s equally important to train them to no longer do so. To train them out of this behavior, stand up and put them on the floor every time they jump into your lap uninvited. You can use a treat as a sign that they can jump up and reward them for following this pattern of behavior. You can also use clicker training to establish and reinforce desired cat behaviors.
Teaching Your Pets About Off-Limits Areas
Establish an off-limits policy for the baby’s future sleeping and changing areas. You will likely need to use a gate or screen in the area’s doorway to keep out your pets. A gate ensures that when you bring your baby home, you can still hear them while keeping your pets out of the room.
Mimicking the Presence of a Newborn Before the Birth
Another way to prepare your pets for the new sights and sounds of a baby is to mimic the presence of a newborn before bringing the baby home. Ideas include:
- Get a baby doll and carry it around bundled in a blanket. To establish a positive association with the doll, reward your pet for good behavior in the doll’s presence by giving them treats, verbal praise, and pets. Later you’ll continue this system of rewards for good behavior in your baby’s presence.
- A baby crying can trigger pets, so to get them used to it in advance, play a recording of a baby crying, and give them treats, verbal praise, and pets while they’re listening.
- It may take some time for your dog to adjust to being walked alongside a stroller, so before the birth, walk them with a stroller to get them ready for this change in routine.
Another way to get your pets used to a baby is to have them spend time around small children.
Getting Your Pets Accustomed to Your Baby’s Scent
After your baby is born, while you’re still in the hospital, have someone bring home some of the blankets or clothing used by the baby and introduce them to your pets so that they can get used to the baby’s scent before you bring them home.
Introducing Your Pet to Your Baby for the First Time
When you bring your baby home for introductions, it may help to have three adults present, one to hold the baby and two to pay attention to the pet. Make sure your baby and the pet are calm before the first introduction. If needed, have your dog on a leash or your cat in a harness and on a leash. If you have more than one pet, they should be introduced to your baby one at a time. One person should be seated holding the baby while the other adults control the animals. If the pets interact successfully with the baby, feel free to reward them with treats, which will reinforce their good behavior and bring positive associations with the baby’s presence.
Continue to Be Careful When Your Baby and Pet Interact
After the initial introduction, you must remain vigilant as your baby and pets interact. Never leave your pets alone and unattended with your baby, even if you feel confident of your pet’s behavior, as it can still be unpredictable. It’s also important to continually reinforce a positive pet and baby relationship. Spend time with them when your baby is active, and give your pet some treats and verbal praise during these times. You must spend time all together because if you only pay attention to your pets when your baby is asleep, your pets will form negative associations with the presence of the baby.
Consider Potential Hazards to Your Baby and Pets
The safety of your pets is also important after your baby comes home, as there are objects present that can be dangerous to your pet’s health. Objects such as baby bottle nipples, pacifiers, and small toys can be swallowed, resulting in your pet needing surgery. Things like diaper ointment should also be secured away from pets. Dirty diapers can also be hazardous to your pets, so dispose of them securely.
Likewise, pet-related objects must be kept away from the baby, including medications such as flea and tick preventives and heartworm treatments. If you bathe your dog with a medicated shampoo, ensure they’re completely dry before allowing them to be in proximity to the baby. Dog toys and chew bones should also be kept away from the baby.
By taking the proper precautions, you can enjoy the new addition of your baby to your family and make sure your pets learn to live alongside them safely. In many cases, pets and babies form special bonds that continue as they grow up together, making for a happy baby and pets. Our Crème de la Crème of McKinney team hopes these tips help with the transition of bringing your new baby home to meet your fur babies.