Bringing a new baby home is an exciting time. But as you prepare for the nursery, the baby 101 classes and getting yourself physically healthy, don’t forget about your first child – your pet. For many families their pets are not just dogs, but they’re a member of the family. The change in routine and attention can affect your pet, they can even feel a sense of “sibling rivalry” once the baby arrives. For many dogs, they were once the center of the household, the entertainment, and were used to constant attention and affection from you. When the new baby arrives, many things will change, especially the amount of attention you can provide.
There are a few things you can do before the baby comes home. For starters, if your dog is rowdy or aggressive, you might want to consider enrolling in a training or behavior class to get your dog to learn basic commands. Commands such as sit, stay, wait, and lie down will work wonders for you later. You don’t want a big dog, or even a puppy jumping on top of your newborn.
Before the baby comes home, slowly start giving your dog less attention so that later on when you’re focused on the baby, the dog isn’t feeling stressed because it’s receiving less attention than it’s used to. Also, if your pet is the closest to the mom-to-be, start getting it close to another family member to create a bond with someone else in the home. Get this new family member to give it more attention, be the one to take it on walks, so it doesn’t feel abandoned once the new baby is in the home. This will allow the dog to still feel loved and cared for while mom is busy with the baby.
You might want to start getting the dog used to laying beside you on the floor, instead of your lap. Since soon, your lap will be occupied with the baby. If your pet sleeps in the bed with you, you might want to start training it to sleep in a crate or on a doggy bed in another part of the house or on the floor of your bed. Soon you’ll have your baby on the bed for diaper changes, cuddling and nursing and having a dog on the bed might not be ideal. You do not want to make these changes once the baby is home so your pet doesn’t feel replaced and stressed, which can cause it to act out later.
Introduce your pet to babies. Have friends or family who have babies visit your home and get your pet used to having them around. Start introducing positive behavior around little ones. You might also want to introduce your pet to noises that will be around once the baby arrives like the baby swing, monitor or even record a baby crying to get them accustomed to the noise. Put a baby gate at the door of the nursery if you plan on the baby’s room being off limits to your pet.
Start mentioning the baby’s name around your pet so they get used to it and can relate it to the baby once it arrives.
One great tip many new parents have done is bringing a baby blanket that the baby has used home from the hospital, before you bring the baby. Many hospitals will let you take one home if you tell them why. After your baby has been swaddled and used this blanket for a while, take it home, introduce it to your pet and say the baby’s name. Let your dog explore it, smell it, hold it in it’s mouth. This will introduce your baby’s scent to your pet and get them used to the new baby who will be home soon. We’ve seen this done many times and have even seen some pets get attached to this blanket and later one carry it around the house everywhere with them and even place it in their doggy beds or crates.
When you bring your baby home, make sure one person walks in with the baby and the other gives the dog the attention it is requesting. Remember, he/she hasn’t seen you for a few days and is excited to have you home again. Once your pet settles down, introduce the baby to your pet calmly by having your pet sit next to you. Have treats nearby to reinforce positive behavior.
Interactions between your pet and your new baby should always be supervised. Also, try to dedicate one-on-one time to your pet each day, this will also help you relax and give you some time away from your mommy duties. Life will be hectic at first, but with proper training and supervision your dog and new baby will learn to be best buddies.
How did you introduce your baby to your pet? What tricks worked for you? How do your dog and baby get along? Did you do any preparing before you brought the baby home?