Introducing your pet to your new bundle of joy can be as anxiety ridden as it can be joyful. While it should be the start of a long standing loyal relationship between the two, it planning for your furry friend to become acclimatised to your baby’s presence.
It is vital that you carefully plan out the introduction of your baby into your pet’s world and how you will maintain that relationship during your baby’s formative years. It starts before your baby is born and continues after they take their first steps.
Establish The Space Before Birth
Establishing your home before the birth of your baby is the best way to cohesively introduce your pet to your new baby when the time comes. To start off with, you will need to establish yourself as the dominant figure in your relationship with your pet. This can be done as simply as being the first to eat, or assuming higher ground when relaxing (on a bed or chair with you pet on the ground).
Moving forward, it is best advised to gradually shift your pet’s routine in the months before your baby’s birth so that the pet doesn’t associate the change with the arrival of the baby. This means if the pet will have to change sleeping areas or play areas, implement that before bringing the baby home. Gradually reducing playtime with the pet will also help with jealousy issues that might occur when your baby is introduced. Let’s face it, you just won’t have the same time to attend to your furry friend after the birth.
Introducing scents and sounds associated with babies, (e.g. powders, lotions and crying sounds) will help reduce your pet’s anxiety after your baby’s birth.
On top of these gradual changes, teaching your pet basic obedience skills prior to bringing the baby home will work wonders when introducing your baby to them down the track.
It is important that when your baby is introduced to your pet for the first time, it is not in close proximity. Allowing your pet to accustom itself to the sight, scent and sound of your baby from a safe distance is important in establishing a healthy relationship between your bundle of joy and your furry friend.
It is okay to place a physical barrier between your pet and your child’s rest and play area’s, especially if your pet is prone to excitability and will likely try to jump into a cot or onto a change table.
Don’t keep your baby a secret though. After a few days of letting your pet become used to the baby’s presence, you should let your pet familiarise itself with your baby at a closer distance.
Don’t Forget Your Pet
It is vital that you don’t neglect to remind your pet that you still care for it, despite having your baby’s needs to attend to. This doesn’t mean you have to be over the top with affection or exotic toys. Just by maintaining dominance in your relationship and maintaining a regular routine with your pet, you’re more likely to alleviate feelings of jealousy and neglection in your pet.
Teach Your Baby
When your baby is moving about for itself and exploring the world around it, it is imperative that it learns not to be rough with your pet. This can lead to reflexive aggressive actions from your pet that, while not reflective of your pet’s natural behaviour, cannot be tolerated.
By teaching your baby not to pull on your pet’s fur, tail or ears, you’ll be one step closer to a long healthy relationship between your child and pet.
It’s completely natural however for explorative little hands to be a bit clumsy and rough when starting out. So one way to avoid negative reactions from your pet can be to train them early on (prior to the baby’s birth). Poke your pet, tug it’s ear, pull it’s fur and reward it with a treat when it doesn’t give you a negative reaction (which it likely won’t with you as the dominant party of the relationship). Associate this with a phrase such as “what was that?” that you can then use if your child antagonises your pet and your pet will associate this with its prior conditioning.
Your Child Comes First
At the end of the day, your child’s safety comes first and if, after all of this and seeking professional intervention, you are not comfortable with your pet being around your baby, you may have to consider giving your pet to another home for the betterment of both your child and your four legged friend.
If you have any questions about tips for introducing pets to your new baby or would like to book an appointment, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.