When you’re expecting a baby, preparing your pet for the new arrival will make the transition process easier for the animal, yourself and the baby.
Preparing your pet
Be sure to take your pet to the veterinarian for an examination and to get any necessary vaccinations before the baby comes. The Humane Society of the United States also recommends spaying or neutering your pet, because they will be calmer and less likely to bite.
If you are uncomfortable with the idea of bringing the newborn around your animals, speak with a veterinarian and pediatrician about your concerns.
Be sure that the baby’s room is blocked with a sturdy barrier to keep the animal out if the room is off-limits. To discourage an animal from jumping on the crib, the Human Society suggests putting double-sided tape to it.
Also, begin preparing the animal for the changes it will encounter when there is a baby in the house.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals suggests introducing the pet to touching that may occur. For instance, poke your dog or gently tug at its ear then give it a treat. After you touch the animal, say, “Oh what was that?”
According to the ASPCA, you can then say the same thing when the baby touches the animal, and the animal will begin to associate these types of interactions with treats.
The Humane Society suggests that friends with babies bring their child to your house to introduce the animal to babies. Always supervise interactions between pets and babies.
Prepare the animal for what sounds to expect by playing recordings of crying and turning on the baby’s swing. The Humane Society said to make it positive for your pet by giving them a treat or playing with them when you do this.
The ASPCA said to crawl around your dog to make them comfortable with this movement. Since the dog may not have seen this happen before, it can be intimidating when the baby does it and is at eye-level with them.
The Humane Society also suggests putting baby powder or oil on your skin to get the animal used to the baby’s scent. Additionally, consider using a doll to get your pet comfortable with a baby being around. The Humane Society suggests carrying a swaddled doll and taking the doll in a stroller when you take your dog on walks.
Preparing the animal for lifestyle changes that will happen when the baby arrives is also important. If your dog is used to getting constant attention, for example, slowly cut back before the baby is born so the routine doesn’t suddenly change when the baby arrives.
The ASPCA also suggests mixing up for pet’s schedule, because a consistent schedule that works now might not work when there is a baby. Try feeding your pet at different times every day to get them used to this.
Training your dog
Be sure that you are able to have verbal control over your pet before the baby is born.
Basic manners your dog should know are sit, down, stay and settle. The dog should also know to wait at doors, leave and drop items when you say to, relax in a crate, come when called and politely greet people, according to the ASPCA.
It’s important to teach your dog to respond to “go away.” Use treats to teach the dog to go away from you on cue so that you are better able to control your dog’s actions.
The ASPCA also suggests teaching your dog to target your hand when nervous around the baby. This can be calming.
When the baby arrives
Before the baby comes home for the first time, have someone bring home a blanket or other item that has the baby’s scent for the pet to smell.
Send others into the house before you enter so your pet has time to be excited and calm down. Your dog should be on a leash when you come in.
When you go inside, be calm. According to the ASPCA, appearing nervous will worry the pet.
After you are in the house, put the baby in another room and go see your pet.
When it’s time for your pet and the baby to meet, the ASPCA said to have someone leash your dog and slowly walk it toward you while you’re holding the baby.
Allow the dog to sniff the baby’s feet for a bit before stopping the interaction to tell the dog to sit or lie down. Give the animal a treat and gently praise it.
When you are finished, have the person who was helping you distract the dog with a new bone or toy.