Bringing a new baby into the home can be celebratory for you but often stressful or even traumatic for your pet. But you can take some steps to ensure the transition is as easy for your cat or dog as possible.
Address Existing Behavioral Issues
Even months before your baby’s due date, you can begin working with your pet to resolve any preexisting behavioral problems. Even small problems can seem big through the eyes of a sleep-deprived new parent.
Make sure you have reviewed basic obedience skills daily (e.g., sit, stay, down) with your dog so they will reliably and consistently obey you. You should gradually change your pet’s feeding, exercise, and play schedule to that which will fit the family’s once the baby is home.
Before the Baby Arrives Home
Let your pet explore the baby’s sleeping and diaper-changing area. Incorporate fun interactions with your pet in the baby’s room rather than making the space off-limits.
Use a doll to mimic baby behaviors and tape recordings of a crying baby to help gradually acclimate your pet to these changes.
Introducing the Baby to Your Pet
After the baby is born, present a blanket with the baby’s scent to your pet. Let your cat or dog explore this new odor under positive circumstances.
When the family arrives home from the hospital, someone besides the mother should carry the baby into the house. This will allow the mother to interact with the cat or dog, who is excited enough simply by her return.
After your pet has settled down, have an adult hold him on a short leash in a controlled sit/stay or down/stay position across the room, while another adult holds the baby.
Proceed slowly over several training periods, bringing the dog, as long as it is well-behaved, closer to the baby. Keep the dog under control with a reassuring and relaxed manner.
Some sniffing and licking are normal parts of your pet’s exploration. After several successful sessions, cautiously allow your dog off its leash.
Remember, pets need time to adjust to a new family member and these changes need to occur in a gradual and positive manner. If you are not certain that your pet is trustworthy because of its history or lack of training, your child’s safety must come first. Call a professional trainer for help. And please remember that no matter how well you trust your pet, an infant should never be left alone with any animal.
This copyrighted article first appeared in the Residences section of The Palm Beach Post. It may have been updated since its original publication.