How to Introduce Your Newborn to Your Pet

If you’re like most couples these days, you probably tested the waters of parenthood with a four-legged friend. From day one they’ve been an integral part of your family and it’s hard to imagine how those dynamics will change.

But what happens when you and your partner are ready to grow your family again? Chances are, at some point down the road this will happen. When it does, don’t worry, all you need to do is prepare.

The best way to prepare your first-born (a.k.a., your pet) is to start early and work on instilling good behaviors. With the right preparation and precautions, the initial introduction will go seamlessly. Check out our comprehensive guide on how to introduce your newborn to your pet for everything you need to know.

Before Bringing Baby Home

During pregnancy, there are steps to take that will make the introduction process easier. Starting early on allows you to gradually prepare your pet for your newborn and work on any problem behaviors.

Reinforce/Strengthen Training

While you may think your dog is perfectly trained able to control him or herself, a newborn brings about a whole slew of unpredictable changes.

If you haven’t already, enroll your dog in an obedience class. Working with a trainer to teach new commands, break unwanted habits, and handle any serious behavioral issues is a great pre-baby preparation. It will come in handy when you bring your newborn home and will help counteract any serious issues like separation anxiety or fear.

Just a few of the skills to work on before the baby comes include:

  • Sit
  • Down (or off)
  • No jumping
  • Stay
  • Settle
  • Wait
  • Leave it
  • Drop it
  • Be nice (or gentle)
  • Relax
  • Come
  • Go home (or go to your place)
  • Hand targeting

Additionally, take the time to create and reinforce safety zones for your pet. Creating a zone for your dog to go when you tell them to “go home” or “go to your place” will be a lifesaver later down the road. A crate or fenced in area is good, since this will also be a place where your dog will escape the chaos that encompasses a newborn’s unpredictability.

Decrease Attention

As your deliver date gets closer and closer, start to decrease the amount of attention you give your pets. Even though it sounds impossible and you can’t imagine withholding anything from them, it’s the best option.

Mirror the attention your dog will get when the baby arrives so there are no surprises.

A drastic lifestyle change induces anxiety and unpredictable behavior in pets. Start slow and resist any urges to lavish your pet with extra attention to make up for what’s coming.

Doing so will only make things harder once your newborn comes home.

Change Up Their Routine

In addition to decreasing attention, consider randomizing their routine. Since you won’t be able to predict what your schedule will look like when the baby arrives, changing routine beforehand is good practice.

When you feed, walk, or play with them at random times, they will stop expecting it at a specific time. This is very helpful for a newborn’s unreliable schedule.

If you want to stay consistent with feeding, get an automatic feeder that allows you to program times.

Acclimate Your Pet to Babies

Prior to your delivery date, introduce your dog to the scent of baby lotion, powder, and various different baby sounds. The initial reaction to new things is always more intense than subsequent ones. This will give you a chance to notice any adverse reactions before your baby is home.

Go above and beyond by having a friend or family member bring your baby’s blanket home early so your pet can investigate their unique smell before the first meeting.

If you have any friends with children, see if they’d be okay with you joining their daily walks. This is a great way for your dog to get used to strollers and the tiny inhabitants that sit inside.

While this may sound weird, an effective acclimation tool is carrying around a doll and pretending like it’s your newborn. This allows your dog to become increasingly familiar with the behaviors that are associated with babies. If you want to avoid awkward stares, only practice this while you’re at home.

Desensitize Pets

Since children are unpredictable and often grab things in unpredictable areas, work on desensitizing your pets. Start slowly and begin poking and prodding in places they’re not used to. Do this a few minutes a day and pair it with their favorite activity so they build a pleasant association to it.

Extra Action Items

  • Visit the vet to make sure that all shots and medications are up to date
  • Get their nails trimmed
  • Get a nice grooming done
  • Portion out food, write down important phone numbers, keep leashes accessible, and find a trusted sitter that can help last minute
  • Avoid any potential exposure to toxoplasmosis by having your partner change your cat’s liter box (that’s a win for you!)

The Big Day

After you’ve dutifully prepared, the big day will be a breeze. Just follow the guidelines below and things are sure to go great.

Greet Them First

When you first come home from the hospital, your pet will be excited. They’ve missed you and will want to show you just how much.

Greet your pup by yourself first while your partner waits outside with your newborn. You’ll be able to give them all of your attention and reciprocate just how much you’ve missed them.

Try and stay calm during this reunion. If you seem nervous, your dog will pick up on this and become nervous as well. Just relax and make sure you have some treats close by to help with distractions.

Start with Sniffs

After you’ve fully greeted your pet, it’s time to bring in your newborn.

Regardless of if you make the introduction immediately or wait for some time to pass, make sure that everything is done carefully and always under adult supervision.

Have your partner put your dog on a leash and bring them into a different room while speaking to them in a calm happy voice. Next, slowly have your dog approach your baby while on a very controlled leash. During the first few sniffs, at a controlled distance, continually give him or her praise.

This method helps your dog associate your baby with positivity and rewards.

Wait a Few Days

After you’ve done the controlled sniff test a few times over the course of a few days, introduce your dog to your baby off leash.

Keep your baby elevated with an adult between them at all times in order to take extra precautions. Remember to always stay calm and attentive. Your pets react to your emotional state.

If your child starts screaming or kicking during your interaction, take notice of your pets behavior and move your baby away from your dog while praising them. Praise is important so your dog doesn’t form negative associations.

Over time, your pet will get used to these incidents and it won’t faze them.

Don’t Ignore Your Pet

With a new baby around, your free time will greatly diminish. During these times, don’t forget about your pet.

Do your best to give them attention, play with them, and get them out for exercise.

If you ignore your pet and only give them attention when your baby is not around, they’ll take notice and will come to resent mommy and baby time.

Life After a Baby

Now comes the fun part. Your newborn is growing up and starting to get curious about the world around them. This means your baby/toddler will start to get curious about your pets as well. In order to maintain your sanity, start early and follow these tips for success.

  • Teach your baby/toddler to respect your pets
  • Always practice gentle touching
  • Never leave your baby/toddler unsupervised with your pet
  • Separate your pet’s feeding area in a place your baby/toddler can’t reach to avoid choking, drowning, or territorial reactions
  • To avoid negative associations, don’t scold your pets for playing with your baby’s toys – instead, simply replace them with their own

Conclusion

Contrary to what some people believe, your home is big enough for your entire family, pets and all. Just take a few precautions, prepare your pet, and pay attention to the details. Hopefully this guide will help you better understand how to introduce your newborn to your pet, but remember to always make sure it’s safe first. If you have an aggressive animal, you may want to consider finding a new, or temporary, home at least during the first few months. Don’t forget that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, new mothers are eligible to receive an electric breast pump covered by their insurance provider. Byram Healthcare has a large selection of pumps to fit each and every mom’s needs.

If you have any experience, stories, or tips for introducing your newborn to your pets, let our growing community of moms know about it by posting to our Facebook page today!

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