Help! How do I create harmony between baby and pet?
Top mom tips from Finn + Emma…
The introduction of a baby to a pet and a pet to a baby can be a delicate dance. The goal is to make both parties feel loved, keep everyone safe and healthy, and—ideally down the road, set the stage for friendship between them. But it’s not always easy at the outset, especially if you’re introducing a first-born child to a pet who is used to ruling the roost. Below we’re sharing some tips to help you navigate the newness for everyone:
1) Plan ahead
Planning ahead goes a long way. Before baby even arrives, your dog or cat may sense that something is changing, what with the new nursery furniture, toys, paraphernalia, etc. It’s a good idea to do some “pre-adjustment,” which can take many forms. You might want to get your pet(s) used to new boundaries by putting up baby gates and letting them explore and see what it’s like to be on one side or the other. You could also bring your new stroller along on walks with your dog in the weeks prior to baby’s arrival. Maybe even ease off on the time spent with your pet, in preparation for the future. Finally, make suitable arrangements for someone to board or help take care of your pet when you leave for the hospital (and maybe for the first week or so after your return).
2) Be thoughtful about your introductions
After baby is born, you can get your pet ready to meet its newest friend by presenting to them an object that carries baby’s scent—a blanket or item of clothing that baby used at the hospital. This way, when your pet meets baby in person, there is already a familiarity. When you actually come home from the hospital, it’s best if the new mom can enter the house first (letting someone else hold baby) and greet the pet as normal, giving it some attention and letting it calm down. When baby enters the room, make sure someone is available to restrain a pet if it gets too excited or aggressive. Allow baby and pet to observe each other from a distance at first; then, if your pet is behaving and baby doesn’t seem scared, introduce them at a closer distance ensuring protection for baby. It’s just as likely that baby may scare your pet, as that your pet may scare your baby, so keep a close eye on the reactions on both sides.
3) Safety first
Respect is the name of the game here. The idea is to instill in your pet that baby can be sniffed and gently approached—but licking, biting, pawing, or growling is not allowed. Reprimand as necessary. Also make sure your pet goes to its regular checkups and gets any needed vaccinations, etc. As baby gets older, teach him or her to stay away from pets’ toys, bowls, litter boxes, etc. Each party needs to understand the boundaries around each other.
4) Keep things as normal as possible for your pet
The key to keeping your pet happy and healthy is to keep things as “normal” as possible for them. But, if you’re especially worried about a big, jumpy, or aggressive dog, you may need to keep it on a leash around baby the first few weeks. It’s very common for your pet to feel jealous at first, so be sure to carve out time to give it some of the attention it wants and needs. If you observe any bad or uncharacteristic behavior (making messes; refusing food), talk to your vet. And watch out especially for very young or very old pets, as the adjustment may be even harder for them. Even if things seem tough at first, remember that this is hopefully the start of a beautiful friendship!
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For more information, check out this information from The Human Society on Introducing Your Pet and New Baby.