If you’ve owned a pet for a number of years, you know that they have a way of working into our hearts and families like very few things do. You become attached to one another and they get used to having your full attention. So what happens when your family expands and a baby comes home? With a little bit of preparation and work, your dog or cat will accept the new family member without any problem but we have a few tips to ensure a peaceful transition.
Before the baby is born, start taking little steps to make sure that your pet understands limits and respects humans as the alpha in the house. One way to do this is by making them move out of your way if they’re blocking your path. Gently prod them with your foot until they get up and move out of the path. This will reinforce the idea that humans are in control and it will also help pets know to move before a crawling baby comes up and pulls at their tail (or eyes, or ears, or whiskers).
Once the baby is born and while baby and mama are still in the hospital recovering, bring home a blanket that has the baby’s smell on it. When you come into the house, your pets will pick up on the new scent quickly so let them investigate. A good idea is to have a treat ready for them so they begin to associate the new smell with good things. Show them affection as they sniff the baby’s blanket so they know it’s not a threat. Repeat this routine every day until you bring the baby home.
When it’s time to bring the new baby home, walk into the house ahead of the baby so the initial excitement can die down a little before the baby is brought in. Then, command them to sit and have the baby brought in while still in the baby seat. If the pets start to jump up, calmly but firmly correct them. Let them get a hint of the baby’s smell that by now they’ll be familiar with and then move the baby to a nearby but separate location, perhaps on a couch or on a bed.
As the pets get used to the smell being in the room, they’ll probably come closer for a look. This is a good sign but make sure you’re nearby in case they get too excited or show signs of aggression. If that happens, just move them away from the baby and correct them without too much aggression. Remember, you don’t want the pet to associate the baby with punishment.
Eventually, your pets will accept the new baby’s scent as part of the home and will probably largely ignore the baby for the first days. Don’t force them to interact, just let them come around on their own and always be present until you know how your pet will treat the new baby. Reward them for good behavior and discipline them when needed, both actions will reinforce the way you expect them to treat the new baby and will set everyone up for a happy blended family.