The arrival of a new baby is an exciting time. But if you’re a pet owner, chances are your beloved fur baby might find this new change in routine hard to adjust to!
When you bring a newborn baby home, your pet will likely find the new sights, sounds, and scents overwhelming. If your cat or dog has never known life with an infant then this new arrival can pose a threat. While some pets are able to adjust perfectly well, others may become fearful and even jealous – resulting in behavioral issues.
Planning ahead is one of the best ways to help your pet adjust to a new baby and the change in routine that comes along with it.
Preparing your pet for baby’s arrival
In the months leading up to the baby’s arrival, you can begin making small changes to your pet’s routine that will prepare them for when the baby is home.
One of the most important ways to prepare is by rectifying any behavioral issues such as jumping or barking. Taking your pet to obedience school or training them to stop behaviors that could upset the baby will teach them the skills they’ll need to interact safely with the new family member.
You can also begin to introduce your pet to the baby’s room and any items such as a stroller or cot to help them familiarise themselves with all items associated with a new baby.
Allow your dog to smell products such as baby lotion and get used to the new scents that will become commonplace in a few month’s time. For cat owners, identifying areas that are “off-limits” such as the baby’s changing table will also help to deter them from jumping up on or using these areas when the baby is home.
Introducing a baby to pet
One of the best ways to introduce your pet to your newborn is by first bringing home baby blankets from the hospital prior to your arrival. That way, your dog or cat can get used to the scent of the baby in the home.
Once you do bring the baby home, it’s important to greet your pet straight away and make it known that you’ve missed them. This will help soothe any feelings of fear, isolation, or jealousy in your pet.
Ensure that you have a helper with you to supervise your pet as you sit down with the baby. When your pet has calmed down, you can have your helper bring them to you and the baby. Allow your pet to inspect the baby through sniffing and soft nuzzling and be sure to reward positive behavior.
Adjusting to your new routine
This new household dynamic can take some getting used to, especially for your pet. It’s important to look out for any signs of distress that your pet may give off such as whimpering, excessive barking, or growling.
If this occurs, it’s important to take the baby out of the room and away from the dog. Be careful not to punish the dog. If you do, your dog will associate the baby with negativity and won’t learn to positively adjust. It can take up to nine months for a pet to fully adjust to a new member of a household. In this time, be sure to exercise the following to maintain a peaceful routine:
- Always supervise your pet around the baby/children.
- Ensure quality time with your pet.
- Get your pet used to being around the baby. Encourage curious sniffing and gentle touch.
- Reward positive interactions (nuzzling, licking, snuggling with you and baby, etc.) with a treat or cuddles.
- Help your pet associate the baby with positive experiences.
- Consult your vet for pet care advice or tips if you notice signs of continued aggression toward the baby.
The key to a safe and happy way to introduce your pet to a new baby is lots of care and attention. Allow your pet to explore these new sights and smells at its own pace, and avoid any forced interactions between pet and baby.
Rewarding your pet with praise and healthy homemade treats whenever it demonstrates good behaviors around the baby is the easiest way to maintain a positive relationship between both. Never leave your baby alone with your pet and always maintain supervision when both are in the same space.
Remember, the movements and sounds of a newborn can be alarming to your pet which may cause them to act in a defensive or fearful way. With time, your pet will become used to this new addition to the family and, as the baby grows, will appreciate having a new playmate!