Getting ready for an addition – a human one – to your family? It’s a good idea to give your pet time to adjust to the new smells, sights and sounds before the baby actually arrives. Preparing your pet prior to the blessed event will decrease stress levels for all of you.
Starting Off on the Right Paw / Managing Your Environment
Exposing your pet ahead of time to the changes that are going to take place will give him a chance to get used to the differences in your household routine. Months before the baby arrives, you should go through the motions of having a baby in the home.
- Accustom your pet to the sound of a baby. Play a tape of a baby crying (start with the sound very low at first, then increase the volume gradually as your pet becomes comfortable with it).
- Any baby furniture (rocking chairs, infant swings, crib, car seat or stroller) should be put in place early on.
- Establish spatial boundaries for your pet in and around your baby areas that you are comfortable with. If you don’t want your dog in the nursery, try using a baby gate; this will still allow him to see what’s going on and feel less isolated from the family. Your cat should not be encouraged to sleep in the crib cats will not steal your baby’s breath away, this is a myth). But, cats do like to curl up to something warm. You can use netting to tent and cover the top of the crib.
- Preparing Your Pet for a Baby
- Let your pet get used to the new smells of a baby by using powders, lotions and shampoos on yourself that you will be using for the infant.
- Swaddle a blanket and let your pet sit quietly next to you. You can encourage the quiet part of this exercise with small food treats.
- If you have a friend or family member that has a baby, invite them over to spend time with your pet (always closely supervise all interactions).
- Practice the changes in routine that your family will undergo, gradually, and make them a positive experience for your pet.
You will be very busy with all of your new responsibilities and, no doubt, exhausted. It will be important to try and maintain the routine that you practiced with your pet early on and this may be made easier by delegating responsibilities. If the main caregiver for the baby is also the main caregiver for the pet (i.e., Mom), someone else in the family will need to step in and help out with the lion’s share of pet care. Ensuring a consistent routine with your pet will help keep stress at a minimum.
- Always supervise any interactions between your baby and your pet. Never leave them together unattended.
- Never force close physical contact between your baby and your pet. Allow your dog or cat to approach and investigate at its own pace.
- Use positive reinforcement (like food treats) to reward your pet when interacting with your baby. You want all interactions to be pleasant experiences for your pet.
Now that you have prepared your pet for the addition to your family, here are some helpful ideas to help make the transition even easier:
- Ensure that your pet has had a veterinary checkup prior to the baby coming home.
- Work on basic obedience cues to ensure that a safe level of training is in place. It will be important to be able to control your dog or puppy when he is around your baby. Often a professional trainer can assist you with the process. You can also sign up for low cost dog obedience classes at the Humane Society of Broward County by calling 954.266.6819.
- Have your pet spayed or neutered before expecting a baby. A spayed or neutered pet is often calmer and more tolerant of children.
- Use baby gates to manage your pet’s environment (creating off limits areas).
- Make sure your pet gets enough exercise and play time. A tired pet is a happy pet… and less likely to get into mischief.
- Spend time with your pet even when things are hectic!
- Training and patience will help your pet and your new baby to live together comfortably and happily.