Introducing A New Baby To Your Pets

It can be intimidating to bring a new baby home when you are unsure of how your pet is going to react. Every new parent has thought for at least a second…

“What if the dog/cat doesn’t like the baby?”

“What if the dog bites the baby?”

To put it frankly, every pet has the ability to bite or scratch when pushed to their limit, no matter how friendly they are. This is why it is so important to learn how to keep your family AND pet safe when bringing your baby home.

We sat down to chat with Crystal Dunn, dog behavior consultant, writer, and host of Far Fetched, a podcast that discusses common misconceptions about dogs.

 She offered 4 ways you can enable a smooth introduction and foster a happy relationship between your infant and your fur baby.

Start During Your Pregnancy

The first steps begin before the baby is even born. We do not want to overwhelm our pets by bringing in all new smells and items right when the baby comes home, so it is vital to introduce them in advance during your pregnancy. Prepare your pet by letting them smell the lotion or shampoo you plan on using on your child, as well as let them smell a baby blanket or clothes. Next, start putting up the furniture or items around the house that you will be using once the baby arrives. This way, your pet will get used to new sights in the house (as well as learn potential new walking patterns!). Introduce your pet to the new sounds they will hear by playing baby noises often. It is also important to cut out habits that will be changed once the new family member is added. For example, if you no longer want your dog to sleep on the bed after giving birth, that behavior needs to be altered beforehand. Certain commands should be taught to your dog, such as “leave it,” “sit,” “off,” and “crate/bed” that will be helpful later on.

Create a Safe Space for Both Baby and Pet

Baby gates are the first step of keeping your child (and pet!) safe. This prevents your dog from getting access to the baby, and vice versa. For cats, it can be good to place a cat tree in an area where you know you will be spending a lot of time, so they can observe you and baby from a distance while still feeling safe. One thing we don’t consider enough is moving water and food bowls to a place that your baby will not be able to reach. Not only is this a concern due to drowning and choking hazards, but also because of risks of transferable diseases.

Upon Arrival

Once baby is born and still at the hospital, have someone bring a baby hat home for your pet to smell. This way, your pet can start getting used to their scent before even meeting them. Dogs are actually very family-oriented animals, they understand family dynamics more than we tend to think. They are likely aware of what is happening. Once you are home, do not leave your child alone around your pet. All interactions should be supervised to ensure both your baby’s and pet’s safety.

It is important not to neglect your pet during the newborn period. They have gone from being the center of attention to the baby taking their spotlight. You need to give them a bit of one-on-one time every day. Even 10 minutes can suffice to bond with your pet or practice training. Especially with dogs, keeping them active and giving enough attention will lower the potential risk of them lashing out. This time should not be seen as a chore though! Taking out your dog on a walk can be a great break from your day, and it has many benefits for both you and your pet.

Acclimation and Learning to Understand Cues

As mentioned previously, there should be no unsupervised playtime. This is when the baby gates come in handy! Around the age of 6 months, you can begin to allow a little interaction. At this time, you can start teaching your baby things like “smooth touching” and not grabbing your pets. Just like how pets have the potential to hurt others, so do children. Make sure you are praising your pet a lot during these lessons, even if they are just sitting there! Show your child where it is okay to pet your dog/cat as well as tell them where they cannot pet them. Often when pets lash out, it is because they do not like the way they are being handled.

One of the most important things you can do to prevent any issues from arising is learn to understand your pet. If your pet is noticeably uncomfortable when being close to your baby/touched by them, let them leave the area. This does not mean they will always feel that way, but it is important for you to not force them to interact. If your dog curls its lips or even growls, do not punish them. This is their way of telling you they do not feel comfortable. By punishing them, it will train the “warning signs” of a bite out of them. Instead, make a correction sound, “uh-uh”, and remove them from the situation.

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***The information provided on our website is intended solely for general educational and informational purposes only. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician for any questions you may have regarding your or your child’s medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have received in this information.***