Introducing Your Baby to Your Pets

Introducing Your Baby to Your PetsBringing home your new child is incredibly exciting for you–but what about your pets? If you’re like me, your pets were your “fur-babies” first and they enjoyed copious amounts of exercise and attention. Our dogs and cats had been around babies and children, but never had to cohabitate with one and share mom and dad’s affection.

First, your pets probably have an inkling that something is changing. They are seeing your body change (and your scent change) if you are pregnant, and whether you are adopting or giving birth to your child they will see you preparing the home. Some pets may get nervous at this point.

There are a few things you can do to prepare your pets for a new child’s arrival, even before she comes through the door for the first time. For cats, here is a great article on making the transition as smooth as possible. For us, the biggest thing we had to do with our kitties before we brought our son home was decide which baby items or areas were off-limits to the cats, and enforce this from the beginning. Personally, our cats had a much easier time adjusting to a baby than our dogs.

Preparing your dog is a little different. There are a lot of great training tips out there that will help you prep your pooch. A well-trained dog will be a real blessing when your hands are full of seven million things, which they will be, often. With the influx of baby gear your home may be experiencing, don’t forget to leave a spot where your dog(s) can retreat to for some quiet alone time if things get too stressful. If it’s possible, whether you have dogs or cats, sending somebody home with an article of clothing or a towel that the baby or child has slept with can help acquaint both dogs and cats with the child before you bring him home.

When you first get home with a baby, give your pets some time to be excited to see you and then calm down before introducing them. There are tons of good tips out there on how to handle the introduction; it’s really important to remain calm, have a second person there to facilitate the introduction and reward positive behavior, and to pay close attention to the pet’s reaction. If you have any reason to believe you have a pet that may not handle being around a child well, this is again something to tackle before the child is home; a good dog trainer is worth their weight in gold and can help you with this (and also advise you if they feel the dog is not going to do well with a child even with training).

Finally, if you are bringing home an older child, you will also need to consider your child’s reaction to pets, and you will handle the introduction a little differently. If you are preparing a welcome book, make sure to include pictures of your family’s pets. Hopefully you can get information before hand on if the child is frightened by pets. Toddlers can be more overwhelming for pets to adjust to than a newborn, so consider your pet’s disposition as well and again, contact a trainer if you need assistance.

Meaghan Howard is a mom to two boys and a steady stream of foster dogs. She and her family currently live in Japan.

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