Bringing home a new baby is life changing for everyone involved. For families with pets, there will be another four-legged household member to consider. Dogs and cats have a lot to get used to, especially if you are a first time parent and they have always been the centre of your attention. Knowing whether to integrate your new baby with your fur baby is a big decision, so take a look at some top tips to help your pet prepare for the family expansion.
Loud, unexpected cries can unsettle your pets if they're not used to the noise. Try playing baby crying sounds from your phone when you're near your pet, at times they won't expect, and gauge their reaction. Play the sound while staying calm and stroking your pet as usual to show them that nothing is wrong or suspicious about the noise.
New babies come with lots of new items of furniture that have never been in your pet's home before. Most parents get high chairs, buggies, and car seats ahead of time, so if you have these on hand already, bring them in to let your pet have a proper look and a sniff. This is especially useful if you have something that makes a lot of noise or might move on its own, like a baby rocker chair. Let your pet investigate now so that they're used it by the time baby is here.
*This is a useful technique in general areas but do not encourage or allow pets to become familiar with bedding or a nursery. See below.
Similar to the tip above, familiarise your pets with the scents and smells associated with babies. Dogs and cats both rely heavily on their sense of smell and it helps them identify people. Get your pet used to baby powder, shampoos and milk. You can even use some items, like baby lotion, on your own skin, so that your pet smells this new scent mingled with your own 'safe' scent.
Only you know your pet's disposition and behavioural history, so make sure to be safe when socialising. Ask family or friends with younger children to help by coming to visit. Arrange ahead of time how you will do your introductions and where your dog or cat will be during the visit, especially if you have only adopted your pet recently.
If you have a separate nursery room for your baby, it's useful to set the expectation that your pet cannot go inside. Before baby arrives, block off the doorway without shutting the door. This way, your pet can see and smell everything inside but can't actually get in. This helps them to understand that no matter what noises are coming from the nursery, they must stay outside. When baby is sleeping or you are not in the house, shut the door as normal.
For cats, who are natural climbers, you can use a mesh pet-barrier that you can fit from floor to ceiling.
These tips are geared more specifically towards your canine companion, but if your cat is trainable, you could try these methods with them too.
You'll want to begin training your dog around three to four months before your baby is due - or a little earlier if they have a lot of learning to do. Full links to training techniques can be found at the end of this article, so you can read the methods below in detail.
Reinforce Manners Training
Your dog may be a pro at manners training already, but if not, now is the time to reinforce the basics.
Practise dog walking with a buggy
If you have your buggy already, take your dog out for walks alongside it, sans baby. Your dog can get used to your slower pace, the buggy itself, and sharing the pavement with an object much taller than themselves. You might feel a little silly, but it's easier to practise now than have your dog get stressed out by the buggy when your little one is in it.