Pets count as family, too! As you and your loved ones prepare for your new bundle of joy, don't forget to prepare your pet. Most animals are very sensitive to any changes in their routine or environment. It’s important to keep their needs in mind when you’re expecting a new baby in the house so they can transition and adapt with ease. Here are some essential tasks to do before and after your baby arrives, as well as tips to help you along the way.
Before Your Baby Comes
- Before the baby comes, implement any schedule and household changes that would normally happen after your child arrives. For example, if you are putting up baby gates in certain areas or not letting your dog sleep with you after you bring home the baby, implement these changes well before the baby comes home. It gives your pet one less thing to change in their routine all at once.
- Create a safe zone for your pet where the baby won’t be allowed, so your pet can have free access to their own space. This could be a room, crate, bed, or anywhere that includes their essential needs as well as any toys that they like. Have your pet use this safe zone before your baby comes.
- Familiarize your pet with the sounds, scents, and products associated with having a baby. For example, play nursery sounds or prerecorded baby noises, carry a baby doll while your pet is around, or walk your dog while pushing a stroller.
- Teach your dog to give you space by simply throwing treats away from you while saying a command. Progress to giving the command and waiting for the dog to retreat before tossing a treat, which teaches your dog to give space without a verbal command. It’s all about working towards a positive command instead of yelling or chaotic reactions.
After Your Baby’s Arrival
- Following your baby’s birth, have a loved one take a baby item from the hospital back to your pet. This will help them get used to the smell early on, and they will recognize it once your baby is home.
- When you bring baby home, have someone else hold the baby while you greet your pets and calm them. Once settled, introduce your pets one at a time to your child. Observe any undesirable behaviors exhibited by your pet and, if needed, immediately interrupt the interaction between your pet and baby. Do not make the mistake of letting your animal think this unwanted behavior is acceptable. No matter breed, gender, or age, every animal is capable of acting out, especially when under stress or anxiety. If your pet is not comfortable yet with approaching the baby, don’t force it. Let them adjust to the change slowly. More time may be needed to introduce your animal to your baby. Take it slowly!
- Set aside time to spend with your animal. Whether it’s playing in the yard, going for a walk, or cuddling on the couch, let them know you haven't taken them for granted. Reassure them that you still love and appreciate them! If you continue to observe signs of depression, anxiety, or aggression with your pet, speak with your vet.
Other Helpful Tips
- Learn about dog language to understand how your dog communicates, and to prevent any potential problems.
- Just like you’re teaching your pet to love and respect your new child, it’s good to teach your child the same love and respect towards your pet. Don’t allow them to hit their new furry friend or pull their tails.
- Animals are good at picking up stress from their owners. If you begin to feel stressed out, take some time to yourself and practice some stress-relieving activities.
- Avoid ignoring or constantly scolding your pet around your baby and then showering them with attention when the baby is away. This could create an undesirable association in the pet’s mind.
Be patient with yourself and your animals. Such an enormous lifestyle change is sure to cause some temporary bumps in the road, but by staying optimistic, asking for help when you need it, and focusing on the many positive aspects of your new life, you’ll be able to find balance with your whole family - furry members included.