Special thanks to Alicia for contributing this post with valuable advice for expecting parents.
|Photo via Jon on Flickr|
Life is changing in a big and wonderful way for you when your new baby arrives. But it’s also changing in a startling and unpredictable way for your pooch or feline. Pets dislike change because they thrive on routine, and with a new family member in the house, adjustments are inevitable. Yet the change doesn’t have to be startling for your first “kid.” Whether your baby’s arrival is still months away, or just around the corner, it’s never too early or late to start prepping your pet.
Investigate Your Resources
Many people have been where you are: nervous to introduce their pet to their new bundle of joy. As such, there’s a plethora of resources to guide you in your preparation.
- Books. The book “Tell Your Dog You’re Pregnant: An Essential Guide for Dog Owners Who Are Expecting a Baby” focuses on a plan of action; Figure out how your dog responds to a number of child and toy noises, and then get them used to those new sounds.
- CDs and videos. Cats need to get used to baby sounds too. Some CDs and videos are available so that you can slowly introduce your pets to new noises.
- Local classes. Many cities have organizations or stores that host sessions led by certified trainers on how to prep your pet for a new arrival. Contact local pet stores and the ASPCA about classes. The Anti-Cruelty Society also offers a free behavior hotline.
- Certified Professional Dog Trainers (CPDTs). If you have a rambunctious dog, particularly one who doesn’t have much experience around kids, consider one-on-one training to prep your pooch.
A well-behaved dog is key to creating a good relationship between your pooch and your new baby. That’s why it’s more important than ever to ensure that he understands all commands, starting with the most basic: sit, down and stay. ‘Settle’ is important too, so as to tame any overexcitement your dog feels when greeting people, including you when you’re carrying your baby. Additionally, work on ‘leave it’ and ‘drop it’ commands to avoid the dog playing with the child’s clothes or toys. ‘Come’ is always important too, because you’ll want your dog’s immediate attention if he’s doing something he shouldn’t be.
Once you’ve mastered all the basics, work on developing other commands that will make life easier, and safer, for you and baby. Practice hand targeting (perhaps use the command ‘touch’ or ‘kiss’) so you can distract his snout. Additionally, teaching him how to appropriately play fetch, and not tug of war, can teach him how to later play appropriately with your baby.
The training doesn’t end there either. If your pet has any behavior issues, such as peeing in the house, address and fix them now. Behavior problems will only get worse once your baby arrives, and the last thing you need is added stress. Talk to your vet if there’s an issue that training alone doesn’t help, as your pet’s health can be responsible for some behaviors.
Create a New Routine and Come Up With a Plan
By making adjustments to your routine before the baby’s arrival, your pet won’t necessarily associate the changes with the baby, and there will be less resentment.
· Decide where the pet is allowed to go:
- The couch. Especially if you plan on nursing on the couch, consider this a no-go zone.
- The bed. If you let your pet sleep in bed with you and you’ll be co-sleeping with your newborn, find new sleeping arrangements for your pet. This is particularly important, because when you’re exhausted parents, you can’t keep a close eye on your pet and baby’s interactions.
- The baby room. This can be one of the most difficult off-limits spots to maintain. But cats can easily climb into cribs, for one, and dogs may get into your child’s toys or diapers. Consider keeping the door closed when the baby is in the room. You can also work on training your dog to stay at the door and only come in when you invite him in.
- The car. Since you should always be present and attentive when your baby and dog are interacting, either create a barrier between the car seat and your pet, or put your pet in a different part of the car.
Switch up the feeding schedule. Prepare your pet for changing feeding routines by giving him his food at different times. Alternatively, get an automatic feeder, or give less food but more frequently.
Introduce baby-related items. Prior to baby’s arrival, expose your pets to the baby’s things. Let them investigate by sniffing things and hearing the noises they make. This includes bringing out the stroller and taking your dog for a walk. It may look strange, but you’ll be thankful you’ve practiced this new routine when you’re trying to wrangle both your child and your baby during those first few walks!
About the Author: Alicia is a “Jill of all trades.” She writes about travel, health, and communication on her blog MarCom Land, works as a content coordinator for Inbound Marketing Inc., and dresses up as a Disney princess to visit kid’s birthday parties on weekends.
Introduce Your Pet to Other Children
There is no substitute for experience with other children. Invite over friends with children, particularly babies and toddlers, so that your pet can get used to the sounds kids make, as well as how they behave. This may also provide an opportunity to see how well your training has paid off, as well as things you may need to work on, such as if your dog barks at the child.
|Photo via D. Sharon Pruitt on Flickr|
Give Your Pet a Safe Space
Babies can be overwhelming, and as such, your pet needs a safe space. While the baby has his or her room, give your dog a gated area that he can access but that the baby can’t. Crates work well for this purpose too. As for cats, give them cat trees or perches so they can escape when they need some alone time.
Having a baby is a big transition for everyone. Your attention is going to be on your baby a lot when they’re born, but don’t forget about your pets, the other part of your family. Don’t ignore their needs, including their desire for attention, and start preparing them early on. By preparing early, you’ll reduce stress and create a loving home for everyone.