Introducing A New Baby To The Family Pet
Having a baby is a time for celebration. The air is electric with excitement of the new arrival. I’m sure parents would be reading up on how to introduce the new addition to the rest of the family (if you haven’t you can read my blog post “Introducing A New Baby to Siblings” by clicking here) but have you thought about how to introduce the new baby to your family pet(s)? Yes, this is just as important as introducing the baby to its siblings. Dogs and cats get jealous too!
Animals know when something is changing within the family home, they can sense the anticipation. Even other people’s pets can sense when something is different about you. When I was pregnant, my friend’s female dog followed me wherever I went, she constantly licked me and tried to lie on my stomach every time I visited their home. This surprised me as she had never given me the time of day beforehand (nor since the baby was born!)
I was brought up in a home of animal lovers and dog trainers so I have a rough idea of how to introduce a new baby but we don’t have any pets, so it wasn’t something I had to worry about with my children. But for those of you who have pets here is a summary of what to do:
- Ensure your pet is fully trained or hire a trainer to work with you and your pet before the baby is born.
- Slowly decrease the attention you give the dog over a couple of months before the baby is due. Once the baby is born your focus will be more on the baby but try to increase your attention to the dog again at the same time.
- Introduce the pet to the nursery slowly and on your terms. The dog/cat needs to know that they can only enter the room upon your command and that they must exit when you say so. Let them sniff the baby lotions, nappies, etc.
- Cats will love to sleep in the cot or bassinet so ensure you place a barrier over it. Floor protectors with nubs (nub side up) can deter the cat from jumping onto the cot mattress.
- While you are in hospital with the newborn baby have someone take the blanket with the baby’s smell back to the house so the pets can get use to it. When you arrive at the house allow the pets to sniff the scent of the baby from a distance.
- Allow the pets to come closer to meet the baby. As the leader of the pack you need to control the situation and introductions need to be done on your terms. It will take time for the pet(s) to get used to having a baby in the house.
- Never leave a baby alone with any pet. You never know if or when a dog will bite, or a cat will claw. Praise your pets, spend time with them too and monitor their behaviour around your newborn. If, at any time you are wary of your pet’s behaviour ask a trainer to come to your home to assess the situation and to help with any training that might be needed. Your child’s safety always comes first.
Once your baby is older teach it to respect the pet and not to tease it, pull its hair/tail/ears etc. Children and pets form strong bonds as they grow, both will demand your attention, both will cause upsets where you will want to pull out your hair, but both will also reward you with lots of love and laughter. I hope you and your family enjoy these precious years!
Do you have any other suggestions on how to introduce a baby to a pet? Share them in the comments section below.
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