Bringing home baby is an exciting time, but it can be overwhelming for a family pet. Negative reactions like barking, chewing, and scratching are all normal stressed reactions to the new introduction of a infant to the household.
Luckily, there are a lot of thing expectant parents can do to prepare a pet for a new arrival:
- Accustom Your Pet to Baby’s Accessories – Waiting until the baby comes to spring all this stuff on a pet will result in confusion. Give yourself a few months of lead time to set up the nursery, bring in strollers, swings and the highchair. By walking the dog next to the empty stroller and teaching animals not to grab food off the high-chair trays, pet owners can help establish boundaries that make transitioning easier. If pets won’t be allowed into particular rooms after the birth, make sure to establish that in advance with a baby gate or additional training. Help the pet understand so you can reduce stress.
- Introduce the Sights and Smells of Baby – Know a friend or neighbor with a baby? Invite ’em over! Your pet will be come familiar with the noises of a baby that way. If not, a CD with baby sounds can help them adjust. Similarly, introducing a swaddled doll can help animals get accustomed to a baby’s appearance. Once the baby has been born (and it still at the hospital), bring home a blanket or cap so that pets can get familiar with the scent.
- Make the First Encounter Fun – Incorporating an element of “play” is essential for cats, who can’t feel fear while they’re playing. Try to associate the new infant with something pleasant, like wanded toys. Prepare a few weeks ahead of time by stocking up on feather wands and battery operated toys to help cats relieve stress during those first few weeks. For dogs? Treats and extra petting typically works just find.
- Establish Quiet Zones for Pets – Setting up a crate or other removed space for an animal as a “kid free zone” can help a patient reduce their anxiety and deal with stress. Dogs especially see these areas as refuges where they can escape for some quiet time.
- Spay and Neuter Pets in Advance – This can help calm pets – especially cats – and minimize the risk of scratching and biting. Owners should also ensure pets are up to date on vaccinations and grooming needs before they are busy caring for baby.
Obviously your priorities change when you have a baby, but that doesn’t mean that your dog no longer needs attention and love. Don’t ever ignore a pet during or after pregnancy. If you are struggling with adaptation look into a baby and pet preparation class or obedience lessons. Also, don’t forget to teach your kids how to interact with animals – ear pulling, tail pulling, and interfering with food bowls should be disallowed.
Dogs & Storks™ Classes in Hampton Roads
The first national program that prepares families with dogs for life with baby, Dogs & Storks™ offers, positive, practical and fun solutions for families preparing for baby. Our program clears up myths, emphasizes realistic expectations and sets families and their dogs up for success before baby arrives!
This class is presented by Ellen Mehurin, MA, a licensed presenter of the Dogs & Storks program and the “Dog and Baby Connection” program. Parents can sign up for group classes and private consultations. For more information visit the Clever Critters website or call Ellen at (757) 775-7987.
Bon Secours Love and Learn partners with a variety of local experts in the community to provide classes on infant massage, stroller striders, and prenatal yoga. Visit our website for a complete list of our pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting programs.