By Teri Errico Griffis
The stick turns pink. You’re elated! You’re going to have a baby! Once the initial excitement passes, reality sets in and it’s time to prepare for a new addition to your family, and your home. Among all the worries that fill a new parent’s head, it’s not just sibling rivalry they have to worry about when adding a family member. Pets can get jealous, too. They might not know what to make of the new smells, sounds and energy around them, or the lack of your attention. Here are some helpful tips to prepare your fur baby for your new human one, courtesy of The Humane Society and ASPCA.
Prepping your pet:
- Update your pet’s shots and vaccinations. First and foremost you’ll want a healthy pet.
- Spay and neuter your pet. According to the Humane Society, sterilized pets tend to have fewer health problems. They are also calmer in nature and less likely to attack or bit.
- Train your pet. If they have any behavioral issues, address them now. Teach your pet to go to their bed or stay calmly by your side without jumping. (It’s important to discourage them from jumping on you or the baby.) Says the Humane Society, training provides a way for you to safely and humanely control your dog’s behavior.
- Carry a baby doll to help your dog get accustomed to you holding your future child as well as watching routine baby activities—e.g. cuddling, rocking, changing diapers, bathing, etc.
- Teach your dog early on that the baby’s room, furniture and/or toys are not theirs. Don’t let them curl up on the rocking chair or play with the stuffed animals now only to take that away later. Set boundaries early. If you need to, put a sturdy gate in the baby’s doorway to keep pets out.
- Play baby sounds so your dog can grow accustomed to the noises. Find a YouTube video of crying or laughing and run it for a few moments each day. Turn on the baby swing, show them toys that make noises or flash lights. Like anything new, introduce these new pieces positively to your dog.
Introducing your pet to your baby:
- Before you head home from the hospital, have someone bring home a blanket or piece of clothing with the baby’s scent. Let your dog sniff it to learn the scent.
- When you first arrive home, relax. Your dog will be eager to see you, but will feed off your energy, so if you’re anxious or worried, your pet will pick up on it. Before you walk into the house, be sure your dog is in a calm, submissive state.
- Let everyone head into the house first so the dog can get out its excitement greeting them. Then when you’re ready to enter with the baby, leash your dog during its first few moments with the baby. You may not have any reason to believe the dog will display aggressive behavior, but have treats on hand and reward your pet for any calm interest in the baby.
- Following your hello to your pet, allow them to sit next to your baby. Reward any positive behavior so that your dog will see interaction with the baby as a positive experience. “Convince [your dog] that meeting and interacting with its new friend is fun, not stressful,” says the org.
- Maintain routines for your pet and continue to give them lots of attention when the baby is around. Take them out and feed them at regular times. Maintain your daily walks, and take the baby along.
- Supervise your pet. No matter the breed or temperament, never leave your pet and your newborn alone.
- Love your pet. They are still your babies and need attention too!