If you are expecting and already have a pet at home, it’s important to plan for how you introduce your furry critter to the new arrival. Just like sibling rivalry can occur when you introduce a new baby to a toddler, your four-footed babes can show signs of jealousy if not prepared ahead of time for the day you walk in the front door with a new baby bundled in your arms.
Planning is the operative word. You have nine months, or there about, to teach your pet how to properly behave around the new family member. It’s easy to start off by researching online. Many groups like HSUS (Humane Society of the United States), ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and Parents Magazine offer recommendations and instructions to make that fateful day a happy and healthy one.
Some Basic Guidelines:
- Get Fido accustomed to baby noises and smells – play a recording of baby cries and coos to teach familiarity. Introduce your pet to smells like baby oil and powder on your own skin. Before baby enters the house bring home a burp cloth, blanket or diaper you new little one has used so he can smell the scent before baby is carried through the door.
- If your pet is currently your only child - start spending less one-on-one time before the baby is born. Fido needs to get used to your time being taken up with the baby’s needs and not just his.
- Start a ritual of individual time spent with your pet without baby present – so he still gets your undivided attention. Give Fido his own space with dog bed and toys so he can escape and be alone if the baby noises and activities get too lively for him.
- Make sure your pet follows basic behavior commands – like sit, stay and down. Use positive reinforcement techniques only. You may want to keep your pet on a leash for the first few weeks as introductions occur.
- Decide if you want to keep your pet out of the baby’s room – if so, train her months before not to enter that room. Set up crib and other baby furniture so your pet can see it. Use double-sided tape to keep your pet off the crib, changing table and other baby areas if you will allow your pet in baby’s room.
- Use a baby doll before the birth - so your pet can see you go through all baby activities like diaper changes, carriage rides, bathing, rocking chair feedings. Talk to him or her about what you are doing. If you have decided on the baby’s name, use it when talking to your pet.
- Make sure your pet is used to regular nail clips - especially cats!
- Be aware of your pet’s body language – and respond appropriately.
- Make plans for pet care – while you are in hospital. Keep the pet’s feeding and other schedules the same.
Why Raise Children With Pets?
Many pet parents consider Fido and Fluffy to be every bit as much a son or daughter as a human baby. By preparing your pet ahead of the birth, you will make his or her life much more secure and non-threatening. The parents-to-be will have an easier time, too.
By planning ahead you can prevent the harrowing decision of surrendering your pet to a shelter should they not get along with your baby. One of my adopted dogs, Oscar, had been given up to a shelter because of “new baby in the home.” While I am delighted he got to be part of my pack, I often wonder would he have been happier and more secure if his previous humans had taken the time to properly introduce their baby to Oscar.
As your baby grows older and starts to interact with your pet, make sure to teach your two-legged critter how to respect the four-footed fellow in your midst. Every family member’s life will be better for it.
Studies have shown children raised with dogs in the first year of life are healthier and have less respiratory infections then those not exposed to interactions with pets. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) reports children raised with pets gain many benefits. Caring for a pet increases social skills, teaches empathy, provides life lessons and a connection to nature. Pets help children develop non-verbal communication, compassion and trusting relationships.
“Kids and Dogs: A Professional’s Guide to Helping Families” by Colleen Pelar
“Your Dog and Your Baby: A Practical Guide” by Silvia Hartmann-Kent
“Living with Kids and Dogs…Without Losing Your Mind” by Colleen Pelar
“Raising Puppies & Kids Together: A Guide for Parents” by Pia Silvani and Lynn Eckhardt
“Pet Meets Baby” by American Humane Association – can be downloaded free
“Childproofing Your Dog: A Complete Guide to Preparing Your Dog for the Children in Your Life” by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson
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