Introducing a Baby Into Your Fur Baby's Home
By Sydney S., Veterinary Assistant
Preparing your pup for a new baby is no easy task. Our pets are a part of our family so we want to make the transition as easy on them as possible. Drastically changing your routine with a new baby is not only hard on the parents, but the four-legged siblings as well. To help make the transition on your pet a little easier, we recommend training, introducing new baby items to the house, and even creating a safe space for them.
Training is an important part of owning a dog in general. Whether you have a trick master or a beginner, you must solidify their basic obedience. The seven basic commands in the animal world are: sit, down, stay, come, heel, off, and no. Mastering these commands open up a whole new world with some more advanced tasks and tricks. “Sit” and “Down” are both great transition commands that help build confidence in your dog for learning new skills. “Stay” or “Wait” can help your dog control their impulsivity. “No” or “Leave it” can help your dog learn which things are theirs and which things are off-limits in the household. “Off” can be helpful to ensure that your baby has enough space and that your dog doesn’t get into a situation that could potentially agitate them. These commands can apply to a lot of your everyday routine, and they can all be adjusted to fit your lifestyle as well. The final outcome results in a good listener and a well-behaved dog.
Over the later months of pregnancy and the beginning months of having a baby at home, you introduce a lot of new items, smells, and noises. Slowly adding baby items into the house even months before the baby’s arrival can help everyone adjust. Bringing a baby into the home also creates a very unpredictable schedule for the first few months. Helping your dog adjust to this unpredictability can ensure they'll "go with the flow" a little easier. You can do this by changing their meal times, length and time of walks, or even walking with an empty stroller to help them feel more comfortable around it. You may also introduce your pet to baby songs or even videos of infant cries to help them get used to these noises. Rubbing baby lotion on yourself, opening a pack of diapers that smells new or even borrowing some items that smell like a baby can help your pup's snout adjust to all the new smells. Familiarizing them with all these things will make them feel less surprised or anxious once the baby is home. In turn, that will allow a little more space for everyone due to less curiosity.
Creating a safe space for your dog is important whether you have children or not. Allowing your pet to have their own area benefits their mental health in many ways. Creating a safe space can be as simple as secluding their crate out of the busiest area of the house, or it could mean adding a dog bed to the family room that is out of the way for them to have their nook. Even as your child gets older, you must keep this space for your pet. Ensure that your child knows that isn’t an area where they should bring all their toys, or they shouldn’t pet your dog while they're in their spot. As mentioned earlier in this article, learning restraint for your pet is important and so is learning restraint as a child. It will ultimately keep everyone in the situation safe and happy.
The introduction can be extremely nerve-wracking for all parties. Step one is setting realistic expectations for the introduction. Not every dog takes to a new baby right away, so know that it might take some time for them to acknowledge the tiny human. Some dogs don’t even recognize that the baby is a human and might overlook them for a while. Going slow with lots of supervision is going to be the best way to introduce the two. Keeping the two separated for the first few days might be beneficial to allow both of them to get familiar with each other from a distance.
Once you are ready for a face-to-face introduction, make sure that both baby and dog are calm and quiet. Have a familiar adult hold the baby, and another adult ready with rewards to help associate your dog's introduction to the child with rewards or treats. Start far apart and gradually move closer with the infant. You can also use this time to show off your pup's solidified skills by having them sit or stay in one place while you bring the infant closer for them to observe. If your pet continues to show restraint, you may even want to move close enough to where your pet can smell the infant. The first few interactions should not allow for your pet to touch your infant, or come close enough to where they can potentially harm the infant. Go slow over time and allow them to be closer together over the first couple weeks, while always making sure their interactions are supervised.
Overall, having a fur sibling for your child can be extremely rewarding if all parties learn how to properly interact with one another. Set expectations that are realistic, train your pet well and continue to help them master and maintain those skills. If you run into any troubles or have any questions, our veterinary team will gladly provide the assistance you need to make sure everything goes well. Reach out to us by calling (703) 723-1017, or email us at email@example.com.