6 Ways to Introduce Your Newborn to Your Pet
For most couples, their pet is their “first child.” Bringing home a real human baby, however, can result in a few problems. No longer will you shower all of your attention onto your pet — and this can cause jealousy and anger issues. There is a solution, though. Taking steps before your baby arrives and helping your animal learn how to behave around a newborn will lead to a much happier household. Follow these steps when introducing your baby to your pet.
1. Train Your Pet
You should have already trained your pet a long time ago but, if you haven’t, now’s a good time to do it. Animals should know how to behave around children, especially newborns. Over-excited or even aggressive pets can scare your new baby and cause problems in your home.
If you own a dog, for example, teaching basic commands — “sit!” “stay” “lie down!” etc. — will prevent your pet from jumping up and frightening your newborn.
“Having good verbal control of your dog can really help when it comes to juggling her needs and the baby’s care,” says the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “Teaching your dog to go away when you ask will enable you to control her movements and interactions with your baby.”
If you think your pet has behavioral issues, sort out the problem before you bring your baby home.
2. Familiarize Your Pet With Your Baby’s Scent
Animals respond to different smells and may feel uncomfortable when you welcome your newborn into your home. Familiarizing your pet with your baby’s scent, however, can prevent problems in the future. You can do this by letting your pet smell an item of your baby’s clothing, such as a burp cloth. Your pet should recognize your baby’s scent from this moment onward.
This is particularly important for dog owners.
“During this exercise, it is crucial that you set clear boundaries. “Challenge the dog to sniff from a distance, while you are holding the item,” says dog trainer Cesar Milan. By doing so, you are communicating to your dog that the item is yours and then giving permission for the dog to sniff.”
3. Vaccinate Your Pet
Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date before your new baby comes home. Newborns have low immune systems and are susceptible to illnesses. Contact your vet and book an appointment. Different pets require different vaccinations, but your vet will provide you with all the information you need to know. If you have a good pet insurance policy, you will be able to cover these costs.
“Animal vaccines help to control disease, many of which can affect people. At the top of the list is rabies,” says The Standard of Veterinary Excellence.
4. Reward Your Pet for Good Behavior
The first few days after you bring your baby home can be difficult for your pet. If this is your first child, your pet will miss the amount of attention it gets from you. If you have trained your pet, there shouldn’t be a problem with behavioral issues. However, rewarding your pet for good behavior is always a good idea. Giving your pet a small treat if it keeps calm around your newborn, for example, will further encourage good behavior.
Again, dogs will require positive reinforcement more than other pets.
“When training with the positive reinforcement method, you give the dog a reward to reinforce the behavior you like,” says The Spruce Pets. “For instance, if you ask your dog to sit and he does it, you give him a treat. You’re rewarding his good behavior.”
5. Devote Time to Your Pet
Changing nappies, meal times, bedtime prep — looking after a newborn is hard, especially during the first few months. You still need to devote lots of time to your pet, though. Although your priorities will have likely changed, playing with your pet and spending time with them will foster your relationship. Remember, dogs still need exercise; cats still need love and attention. Your normal routines shouldn’t change too much just because you have a newborn.
“I make an effort throughout the day to give my dog a few quick cuddles and throw his ball for him while the baby plays on the floor,” says Jackie Brown, writing for Dogster.com. “Taking just a moment to connect with my dog lets him know I still care.”
6. Keep Your Cat Out of Your Baby’s Crib
Once your baby has settled into your home, make sure you supervise your pet. Cats, in particular, have a habit of “crib climbing,” where they jump into your baby’s crib. This can be dangerous, so keep your cat away from your baby’s bedroom.
“A newborn can’t move her head at first, so it would be difficult for her to breathe if your cat cuddles up close to her face,” says veterinary specialist Justine Lee, D.V.M., in an interview with Parents.com.
Bringing your baby home for the first time can be a magical experience. But you will want to train and prepare your pet before you welcome your newborn into your home. Follow the steps above when introducing your pet to your new child.