Man’s best friend meeting man’s new baby can be an exciting, and even nerve-racking experience. So how do you introduce your family pet to your new baby?
We are all familiar with the Amazon Super Bowl 2016 commercial—it begins with a young couple playing with their baby and her stuffed lion toy. The family dog is on the outside, looking in sadly, wishing he could be a part of their family time. With a quick touch of his hand, the father places an order he thinks will solve the problem. Soon thereafter, the family dog appears wearing the lion mane (looking much like her toy!) and approaches the little girl. Instead of showing fear, the baby exhibits curiosity and joy, inviting her furry friend to come closer. Just like that, the two go from strangers to friends.
If you too are struggling with how to introduce your family pet to your baby, this article may help baby and pet bond together.
Before Baby is Born
If you’re reading this before your baby is born, there are steps you can take to prepare your pet for the new addition to your family. For so many pet owners, your pet is a part of your family. So if your pet is used to being your “baby” before you were expecting one, the change could be difficult to accept. A new baby means a great deal of “new” things—new smells, new items, new routines, etc. Presenting your pet with these changes earlier on, in moderation, will help he or she adjust better once the baby is here.
By “playing pretending” you can simulate what life with a baby would be like for your pet. Get a toy doll, and spend time holding, playing with, bathing, changing, and “feeding” the doll. By watching you interact with a baby, your pet will grow accustomed to seeing you with one. Play recordings of baby lullabies and baby crying to familiarize your pet with baby noises. Alternatively, if you have friends or family with young babies (who feel comfortable having their baby around animals, of course!), invite them over routinely. Introducing your pets to infants will help familiarize them with the smells and sounds of a real baby.
In addition, if you’re planning on turning your guestroom into a nursery, do it as early as possible. Your pet will become acquainted with the rearrangements to the room, including the new furniture, toys/sounds, and décor.
With a new baby in the mix, you and your family’s schedule will also change drastically, especially in the early days when you’re first adjusting to parenthood. This may mean that your pet will have a different feeding schedule, alterative times for walks, or different playtime hours. Consider adopting some of those changes now, to the degree you can anticipate and plan for, so your pet is not as surprised by those deviations when the baby arrives.
When Baby Comes Home
When introducing your baby to your pet, first provide your pet with a blanket or clothing item that carries the baby’s scent. Next, create a safe and calm environment where your pet can see the baby for the first time. You want to have this introduction be a positive one, by petting and providing treats, so that your pet feels comfortable and relaxed around your baby. Always supervise interactions between your pet and your baby, especially during the early years. Also, schedule special one-on-one time with your pet during the week. This will help your pet see the baby as an addition to the family, rather than his or her replacement.
It will take your pet some time to fully adjust to having a new baby around—be patient with the process. One day, they will be inseparable. Cheers to your growing family!