For most pet owners, your dogs and cats are your babies and part of your family, but then a human baby is born into your family, and you must integrate your tribe. Here are some tips for introducing your new baby to your pets in your Woodlands, Texas, home.

Preparing in Advance

One of the ways you can make the transition smoother when the baby arrives at home is to do some advance training with your pet. Consider the behaviors you want to change or adjust, such as barking or jumping up for dogs, preparing them for off-limits areas such as the crib, the changing table, or your baby’s room.

Getting your pet used to new routines, such as more outside time for the cat if you have an indoor/outdoor cat or different times for dog walking, can also help prepare them. Consider the change in the amount of time you may be able to spend with your pet after the new baby arrives. If that amount of time will decrease, try to prepare them for this by spending a bit less time with them so that they don’t associate it solely with the baby’s arrival.

Obedience Training

Since your baby will often be held in your arms or cradled in your lap, it’s essential to ensure your dog is trained not to jump up. Teaching them basic commands such as “sit,” “down,” or “stay” is important. Consider working with a dog trainer, such as Lone Star Dog Training or Houston Dog Behavior and Training to ensure that your dog will be fully trained before you bring your baby home.

If you have a cat that jumps into your lap, it’s also essential to train them to no longer do this. The way you can start training them around this behavior is to stand up and put them on the floor every time they jump into your lap uninvited. You can also reward them with a treat when they show a change in behavior and don’t jump into your lap. You can also use clicker training to establish and reinforce desired cat behaviors.

Teaching Your Pets About Sleeping and Changing Areas

Allow your pets to explore the nursery or wherever you plan to have your baby sleep and get changed in your home. Cats must be allowed to explore the area initially. Then you must establish an off-limits policy for the baby’s future sleeping and changing areas. For cats and dogs, this may involve placing a gate or screen in the doorway to the area. This way, you can still hear your baby while keeping your pets out of the room.

Ways to Mimic the Presence of a Newborn Beforehand

You can also better prepare your pets for the arrival of your little one if you mimic the presence of a newborn before their arrival, in ways such as:

  • Carry a baby doll around. To establish a positive association with the doll, reward your pet for good behavior in the doll’s presence. Later you will continue the system of rewards for good behavior in your baby’s presence.
  • Introduce your pet to crying. To get your pet used to it in advance, play a recording of a baby crying and give them treats while they listen. Another way to get your pets used to a baby is to have them spend time around small children.
  • Practice dog walking with a stroller. It may take some time for your dog to adjust to being walked alongside a stroller, so take some time to walk your dog with a stroller to get them ready for this change.
  • Decrease time with your pet. Naturally, you’ll have less time to spend with your pet while caring for a newborn baby, so gradually decrease the time you spend with your pets to prepare them for this change.

Introducing Your Pets to Your Baby

After your baby is born, 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.

When you bring your baby home and it’s time for introductions, have three adults present: one to hold the baby and two to pay attention to the pets. Make sure your baby and the pets 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 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, reinforcing their good behavior and bringing positive associations with the baby’s presence. 

Going Forward

After the first introduction, you must stay vigilant as your pets and baby interact. Never leave your pets alone 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. 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 baby’s presence.

Be Mindful of Hazards

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. Diaper ointment and dirty diapers should also be secured away from pets. Likewise, pet-related objects must be kept away from the baby, including medications, heartworm treatments, and flea and tick preventives. Dog toys and chew bones should also be kept away from the baby. If you bathe your dog with a medicated shampoo, ensure they’re completely dry before allowing them to be in proximity to the baby.

If you take these precautions shared by the Créme de la Créme team of Woodlands, you can safely add the new addition of your baby to your family and make sure your pets learn to live alongside them safely. Often pets and babies will bond, and your child will grow up with them and enjoy a special relationship, making for a happy child and pet.