Tips for pet owners bringing home a new baby
Published Monday, May 27, 2013 6:09AM EDT
You've read all the books, you painted the baby room the perfect shade and bought the Ferrari of strollers, but did you prepare your pets for the life-altering arrival of your baby? Here are tips to transition smoothly and ensure that everyone lives happily -- and safely -- ever after.
Why you need a plan:
Our pets may not recognize babies as 'small humans' – babies look, smell, sound and move differently than most of the humans they've encountered. Taking steps to ensure that your pet's first impressions are positive ones can go a long way towards living happily – and safely – ever after.
Rover and kitty will know something is up long before your baby's due date. They detect changes in mom's scent, maybe even her behavior and see new furniture coming in and rooms being rearranged
These can be unsettling for our pets who don't understand what 's going on. They can become stressed and confused by changes in the routine and shifts in the focus and attention of those around them. Most aggression is caused by fear and stress so taking steps to reduce these are especially critical with a baby around.
Does Rover have any less-than-stellar behaviours that might be even more problematic with a baby around?
- Does Rover knock you over or trip you going up and down the stairs? Teach him to stay on the landing and wait until you've navigated the steps safely before joining you.
- Is Rover out of control or less than friendly towards people coming in the house? Or is he a bolter at every opportunity? Work on doorway manners and safety before you have the world coming over to visit.
- Is Rover more of a wallflower than a party animal when it comes to socializing? Always makes sure he has somewhere quiet to go and relax when things get hectic.
- Does Rover treat your furniture like his own personal Jungle Gym? Make sure he gets his exercise outdoors and then teach him to settle on his bed with something wonderful to chew.
- Does he jump all over you to say Hello! Teach him to sit politely when greeting before you have precious cargo in your arms.
- Start using baby powder and lotion regularly on your hands so that he gets used to the scent.
- Do encourage him to investigate baby's room and stuff and be sure to set things like jolly jumpers, rockers and crib-mobiles in motion to get him used to things that move and or make noise.
- Get Rover used to the sound of a crying baby in advance by playing CD's of crying sounds. Show him that there is no reason to be alarmed or excited by this sound and that everything is just fine.
- Teach Rover to walk beside a stroller before you have to worry about him and the baby! Don't worry if your neighbors wonder what you're up to walking an empty stroller; they will be impressed to see you handling everything so well once you're walking a baby and Rover together!
- It is likely he will take a keen interest in your baby's toys. Start practicing Rover's 'leave it' and 'drop it' skills with a variety of items, including baby toys and blankets.
Preparing specifically for baby's arrival:
- Avoid paying extra attention to Rover prior to delivery, as you won't be able to keep this up once baby comes home.
- To help prepare Rover for baby's arrival while still in hospital, have someone bring home a blanket or clothing from the baby. Let Rover sniff it and carry it around with you so that he gets used to baby's scent.
- When ready to bring baby home, try to have someone exercise Rover before your arrival.
- Have someone else carry the baby home so that you can freely say hello to Rover, as he will surely be excited to see you. Once he has calmed down the baby can go back into mom's arms.
- Rover will be curious; encourage him to sniff your baby. Please do not do this if you have any concerns about his reaction. Learn to read stress signals: any stiffness, lowered tail, flattened ears, lip licking or furrowed brow may signal a problem.
- Try to include Rover in your activities with the baby wherever possible and speak warmly to him when around the baby. Link baby's presence with a little extra attention so that Rover feels positive about the baby being around.
- If you can't manage to pay extra attention to Rover around the baby, at least provide him with a stuffed Kong or something fabulous to chew on – that way he will be kept busy but also still maintain a pleasant association with baby.
Preparing kitty for baby's arrival is a similar process, with a few extra considerations:
- Cats can be even more sensitive to changes in the household. Starting several months in advance, switch cat care routines such as feeding, playing, sleeping and grooming to another member of the household if possible.
- If kitty's litter box has been kept in what will be the nursery, start a few months ahead of time to gradually move it a few feet at a time to it's new location.
Some common questions:
Both Rover and Kitty should be welcome to join you in baby's room if they choose but should NEVER be left alone with a baby (or young child), while sleeping or otherwise.
Some babies get a huge kick out of being lapped by a huge doggie tongue and while there isn't much immediate harm (and what's cuter than a baby giggling), I would gently discourage face to face interaction to prevent issues down the road (most dog bites are not only to children but to their faces). Just remove baby or redirect Rover to some other activity.
Do use positive reinforcement techniques rather than reprimands and punishment to keep stress levels low and everybody happy!