In many households, the dog or cat was the first “baby” of the family. After years of being coddled and adored, it’s easy to imagine a pet’s confusion and frustration when an actual human baby abruptly arrives on the scene. Suddenly, all the attention is on this little bundle who seems to do nothing but eat, sleep, and cry all day (and night!).
Every pet owner wants their beloved fur friend to bond with their new baby, but getting there can present some challenges. As you pave the way toward a new family dynamic, take a peek at our tips for introducing your pet and new baby.
Make any baby-related changes to your pet’s routine (such as where he or she sleeps or when meals and walks happen) before the baby arrives so your pet doesn’t associate the changes with your new addition. Slowly taper off the amount of time you spend with your pet in the weeks leading up to the birth. Avoid giving him or her a last minute “attention shower,” as this may only increase the confusion and jealousy once baby arrives.
To help ensure a smooth transition, make sure your dog’s manners and social skills are well developed ahead of time. Professional behavioral training, doggie day care, trips to the dog park, and having other children/babies over to visit are good ways to encourage positive behavior.
Whether it’s a crate or a bed nestled in the corner, set up a “pet only” spot for your dog or cat to decompress when necessary. Add a special toy or blanket and make sure fresh water is always available. Leave your pet alone when he or she retreats to the bed or crate and ask that others do the same.
Introducing a Pet and New Baby
- If possible, have someone bring home a blanket or item of clothing the baby has worn in the hospital for your pet to sniff prior to bringing the baby home. That way, your pet can get used to the baby’s smell.
- In the beginning, allow your dog to sniff the baby while carefully controlled on-leash. Gradually move to off-leash once you feel comfortable. Keep your baby elevated and position an adult between your dog and baby at all times.
- Give your pet plenty of attention when baby is in the room.
- Leave your pet alone with the baby.
- Punish your pet for behaviors related to his or her adjustment period after baby comes home.
- Ignore signs that your pet may be anxious, frightened, territorial, or defensive.
- Force your pet to interact with the baby or with visitors to your home.
As your baby grows, so do the opportunities to teach him or her respect for animals and to strengthen the bond between child and pet. Reinforce rules like “gentle touches” and encourage your child to participate in age-appropriate pet care duties.
With plenty of patience, commitment, and a good splash of empathy, you can help your pet adjust and thrive in his or her new normal. Please don’t hesitate to contact the team at AIMSS with further questions.