Prepare your pet in advance to make baby’s homecoming safe.
Are you worried about introducing your babies? There’s your new baby – the one coming home from the hospital. And then there’s your other baby – the one of the four-legged variety.
Maybe your dog is used to taking a walk with you first thing in the morning. Maybe your cat wakes you up by snuggling beside you and purring. Suddenly the routine changes. Your mate starts walking the dog while you tend to the baby. Your cat wonders what happened to snuggle time. Your pet thanks you by leaving a big wet spot on the nursery carpet.
Although this “acting out” by your pet can be annoying, the bigger concern is your baby”s safety. Preparing your pet in advance can help make your home a safer place for your infant.
Preparing for a safe transition
Keep baby’s homecoming safe by planning ahead:
- Change your pet’s routine gradually. Take turns with your husband, walking the dog on alternate days, until your spouse can take over completely. Move your cat’s cuddle time to a less-hectic time of day.
- Familiarize your pet with babies. Rub baby lotion on your hands before playtime. Play recordings of crying babies. Let your dog observe a friend’s baby from a short distance while on his leash.
- Start using pet gates in areas that will be off-limits. Doing this now will keep your dog from “blaming” the baby for his new boundaries.
- Keep your pet off baby’s furniture. Some dogs are able to jump in the crib or bassinette. Cats like to curl up next to a warm body – a suffocation hazard for baby. Put double-stick tape on crib rails, bassinettes and changing tables until you bring baby home. Once your pet gets stuck a few times, he’ll lose interest and you can remove it.
- Visit the vet. Make sure your pets have all their shots. If you haven’t already, have your pet spayed or neutered. This may reduce aggression in dogs.
- Take your dog to obedience school. Teach him to sit, stay, come and “keep out.” Even the friendliest dog can become overenthusiastic and accidentally injure a baby.
Introducing your babies
- Have your partner bring one of your baby’s blankets home from the hospital. Let your pet sniff it so he’s familiar with the baby’s scent ahead of time.
- When you come home, let your mate hold the baby while you greet your cat or dog. Place your dog on a leash so he can see baby from a few feet away.
- Give your pet treats to reward good behavior. Increase contact with the baby gradually. Better to be safe and take it slow than to assume all is well when it’s not.
- Always supervise your pet when he is near the baby. Don’t ever leave them alone – even for a few seconds.
- Always shut the nursery door when baby is sleeping and make sure no pets are inside.
When to worry
Be careful if your dog is from a “high-prey drive” breed (those who chase and kill small animals). If he’s unfamiliar with infants, he may mistake a crying baby for wounded prey.
Be cautious with dogs who have shown aggression toward others. If he growls when you walk near his food bowl or when he’s chewing on a toy, he shouldn’t be near a crawling baby or a curious toddler. If you have an aggressive or high-prey drive dog, ask your pediatrician and your veterinarian for advice. As hard as it may be, you may need to create a safer environment for your baby by finding a less-stressful home for your pet.
The good news is that most dogs are happy with the new “pup.” They see baby as family and instinctively protect the newest member of the pack.