How To Prepare Your Pets For Babies
Your family pet may take offence at having to share the spotlight with an interloper -- your new baby. That's one of the reasons it's a good idea to prepare your pet for changes in your household well in advance of the big event. That doesn't mean you have to banish your pet to the backyard or give him up. It does mean that having a harmonious home that's baby as well as pet friendly may take a little extra work.
How To Prepare Your Pet For A Baby
Long before the baby comes home, there are some things you can do to prepare your pet:
- Make an objective assessment. Any behavioral problems your pet may have like barking, snapping or scratching may be exacerbated by the stress of having a new baby around. It's a good idea to address these problems before the baby arrives in order to minimize or eliminate them later. Sometimes consistent, positive reinforcement when your pet does obey works better than punishment when he doesn't. Give it a try.
- Consider having your pet spayed or neutered. A neutered pet is typically less aggressive and more adaptable.
- Buy a nail trimmer. Even a genial, friendly pet that hasn't been declawed can be a danger to a new baby. Buy a nail trimmer and learn how to give your pet regular manicures. Shorter nails are less likely to scratch and poke. This will probably be good news to your furniture and floors, too.
- Conduct a dry run. Your pet may already be familiar with babies through interactions with your family, friends and neighbors. If not, invite a few friends with babies to visit. Babies can look, smell and sound strange to pets. The fewer surprises your pet is exposed to when the new member of the family arrives, the better. A few dress rehearsals are a good idea. If you can find willing participants, be sure to monitor your pet closely during baby-pet interactions for potential problems, and offer lots of treats and hugs. Let your pet know that babies can be fun.
- Put a little baby oil or baby powder on your skin every couple of days. Your pet loves the way you smell. Adding some baby focused fragrances to your already beloved scent will help him adjust more quickly to having the baby around. It's a common method of positive reinforcement. If you smell a little like the baby, how bad can it be to have one of the little creatures in the house?
Pet Behavioral Problems
If you believe your pet's habits or behavior may cause complications when the new baby arrives, consider taking proactive measures to deal with potential problems today:
- Enroll your pet in behavioral classes to deal with problems like nipping. No dog (or cat) is too old to learn a new trick or behavior, and just because you haven't been able to break his barking habit yet doesn't mean he's a hopeless case.
- If your pet isn't socialized, gradually introduce him to new people and other pets between now and the time the baby is born. The less frightened and confused he is by new experiences, the happier he (and you) will be in the long run.
- Train your dog to come when called and discourage any tendency he may have to jump on you or others. A well-behaved pet is less of a wildcard. The last thing you want is the dog jumping on you when you're carrying the baby in your arms.
Getting to Know You
Long before the baby comes, there are things you can do to prepare your pet for the main event:
Talk to your pet - Discussing the baby with your pet may seem silly, but the tone of voice you use and repeating the baby's name over and over will tell your pet that something new and exciting is on the horizon. There's also a good chance he'll remember the name once the baby comes and associate it with something nice -- pleasant times spent with you.
Carry a doll around the way you would a baby. Your pet will observe this change in behavior with interest and start accepting it even before the baby arrives. It'll be one less surprise for him to adjust to later. You can also use a "mock" infant to help teach your pet good "baby" etiquette like not jumping, whining or growling.
Make an olfactory introduction - Before you bring the baby home, show an object like a blanket with the baby's scent on it to your pet. It will introduce him to the baby in a non-threatening way.
Establishing Some Rules
On the day you bring the baby home, don't forget to make a fuss over your pet and give him some special one-on-one time. The idea is to make him feel that changes in your household are a good thing. Whenever he responds with gentle interest, offer him a treat as a reward. It's natural for your interest to be focused on the baby, but take the time to give your pet some extra attention, too. That way any additional discipline you may have to apply will seem less harsh.
If you want to keep your dog or cat out of the baby's room, especially in the beginning, prefer a pet barrier instead of a closed door. Your pet will still feel like part of the family, but you won't have to worry about how he's likely to respond to the baby or to changes in his accustomed routine.