As a pet owner, your cats and dogs are considered members of your family, but when you’re expecting a baby, you must prepare your pets for your baby’s arrival. There are several ways you can ensure a smooth transition when you introduce a new baby to your family. Here are some things our Crème de la Crème staff recommends to make introducing your baby to your pets easier.

Start Obedience Training

A little girl with a doll, tugging the ear of a very friendly, tolerant dog in Mason, OH

And then, Reese pulls Sage’s ear by Donnie Ray Jones is licensed with CC BY 2.0

Focus on your pet’s behaviors that need to change, such as boisterous jumping or excessive barking for dogs. If your dog isn’t already trained, teaching them basic commands such as “sit,” “down,” and “stay” is essential so that they won’t jump up once your baby is home. This precaution is necessary, as you’ll often hold your baby in your lap or arms. If your dog is resistant to training, consider hiring a dog trainer, such as Raise The Bar Dog Training or Off Leash K9 Training, to ensure that your dog’s behavior is under control when your baby comes home.

If you have a cat that’s used to jumping up on your lap, it’s vital to discourage them from doing so before you bring your baby home. To train them to stop, gently place your cat on the floor if they jump up. You can use a treat as an invitation to signal when they’re permitted to jump into your lap and reward them with another treat for following this new pattern of behavior. You can also help establish and reinforce your cat’s behavior by using clicker training.

Adjust Their Routines

It’s important to introduce your pets to new routines before the baby’s arrival to make the transition smoother when the baby arrives home. For example, you might need to start walking your dog at a different time of day or let your indoor/outdoor cat outside when you know you’ll be busy with your baby. Many things can change for your pets, and the more changes you can introduce before your baby comes home, the better. You’re sure to have your hands full with your baby then, so it’s best to prepare your pets for changes in routine beforehand.

Establish Off-Limits Areas

Restrict access to the baby’s sleeping and changing areas. Once you bring your baby home, you’ll need to use a screen or baby gate in the doorway to the nursery to keep your pets out. A gate ensures that when you bring your baby home, you’ll hear them if they cry while still keeping your pets out.

Prepare Your Pets for a Newborn Baby

Decrease the time you spend with your pets before the baby’s arrival. Once you’re caring for a newborn infant, the time you have to spend with your pets will be reduced. To make this change less sudden for your pets, you can decrease your time together gradually to make the transition easier.

Another way to prepare is to practice what it will be like to have a baby around the house. 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 can continue this system of rewards for good behavior in your baby’s presence.

Get Ready for the First Introduction

When it’s time for the first introduction of your baby to your pets, it’s a good idea to have a group of adults ready to help. Two adults should be responsible for the animals, while one adult should hold the baby. Choose a time when both your baby and pets are in a calm state. Consider putting a leash on your dog in case you need to pull them away from the baby. If your cat’s behavior is unpredictable, you might want to have them wear a harness attached to a leash.

If you have multiple pets in your home, it’s best to only present one animal to your baby at a time. The adults in charge of the pets should watch while another adult holds the baby while seated. Suppose the introduction is a success and your pets are well-behaved. In that case, you can reinforce their good behavior with treats as a reward, creating a positive memory associated with the baby.

Be Attentive While Your Baby and Pet Interact

After the initial introduction, remain attentive when your pets and baby spend time together. Animal behavior can be unpredictable, even if they’ve been trained, so don’t leave your pets and baby unattended. Continue to nurture the relationship between your pets and baby by spending time together when your baby is up and active.

Reserving paying attention to your pets only when your baby is asleep sends the wrong message that their presence means your pet will be ignored. They need to know that they don’t have to compete with the baby for your affection. As you spend this joint time together, continue to reward your pet for good behavior by giving them some treats and verbally praising them.

Keep Your Baby and Pets Safe

While your utmost concern will undoubtedly be your baby’s safety, there are potential hazards for your pets to watch out for as well. Make sure to keep your pets away from small items that belong to your baby, such as pacifiers or baby bottle nipples. These are swallowing hazards for your pets. Dogs can get into dirty diapers, so ensure your diaper disposal is secure and impossible for the dogs to open up. Diaper ointment is also hazardous to pets, so keep it securely stored.

To keep your baby safe, carefully stow all pet medicines, chew bones, and dog toys away from them. Also, ensure you keep your baby away from a dog recently washed with medicated shampoo. 

Our Crème de la Crème of Mason team hopes these tips help when introducing a new baby to your pets. While the process involves some work and vigilance, it’s sure to make bringing home the new addition to your family a safe and smooth process. Your baby and pet may become buddies, beginning a lifelong friendship they’ll enjoy as your little one grows up.