It’s a common scenario… you meet your partner, and then after a while you move in together. Things go well and after a little while longer you might get married, BUT you know for sure you’re not yet ready for children. You like your independence and you just want to enjoy each other. But after you settle into a rhythm you think it might be fun to have something to care for together, so you decide to get a pet, and before you know it you have a four-legged family member.
It may be a bit of a cliche storyline, but it’s a pretty good (and common) way to grow your family. It comes with added responsibility and more expenses, but it’s still nothing compared to raising a child. It’s a gentle way to ease yourself in to life with your partner plus one.
For so many of us, dogs become our pseudo child pretty quickly; we take them everywhere, buy them treats and new toys to keep them entertained, and give them all the love and attention our time will allow…
And then you and your partner decide you want to grow your family even more. So you start trying to conceive. When you get that positive pregnancy test, you feel ecstatic (and maybe a little scared), and you excitedly begin to prepare for the new addition to your family.
While this is all very exciting, (as it should be!), it’s important to remember your much loved pup (or other pet!) and consider how you can help them adjust to this change.
When you bring your baby home, your dog will face an overwhelming number of new sights, sounds and smells and the unfamiliarity can be unsettling. As we all know, a baby alters life as you knew it; and all of your routines will start to change and that includes your dog’s routine as well.
We know that introducing pets to your newborn baby can be a nerve-wracking experience. So we put together our top 10 tips for making that transition smoother for everyone in your family (no matter how many legs they have!).
10 tips for introducing your dog to your baby
- Let your pet become familiar with baby’s room: Set up a nursery area, and allow your pet to sniff and explore the new furniture and accessories. Another great idea is to introduce your pet to the pram (or stroller). This can prevent some difficulties on your future walks, when you also have a baby to look after!
- Make a designated pet-only area: We all need our own space sometimes, and animals are no exception! Make a special area for them to eat, drink, and rest, and encourage them to spend time there. This will also help keep your pet out of trouble when you need to focus on your baby.
- Schedule a vet check: Having a pet who is in good health and is up-to-date with vaccinations is safer for you, your baby, and prevents you from having to worry about those niggling extras when you’re looking after your baby in those full-on months after birth.
- Baby-blanket trick: A really handy trick when your baby has just been born is to take home one of their blankets from the hospital and give it to your pet. This will let your pet become familiar with your baby’s scent so that they won’t be too curious or overly excitable when your baby first comes home.
- Plan a gradual introduction: A good tip is to take your dog for a walk before the first introduction between newborn and pup, so that they are a bit calmer. Then let your pet sniff your newborn in a quiet, familiar place and remember to reward your pet’s good behavior with soothing praise. After the first introduction, you can gradually allow your pets to spend more and more time with your baby.
- Stay calm yourself: Although you may be a little nervous about your pet getting too excitable when you first come home with the baby, the best thing to do is… relax! Whoever is holding baby when you introduce your pet to them should be in a calm state, as it will also help keep your pet calm as they play off of the cues you give them.
- Supervise: Never leave your pets unattended with your newborn. It’s always better to be safe than sorry and keep all interactions closely monitored.
- Give your pup attention too: Our dogs love us so unconditionally, and while you’ll definitely be paying a lot of necessary and deserved attention on baby, it’s important to make your dog feel loved and included too.
- Watch out for the warning signs: Barking, growling, hissing and raising hackles are useful warning signs that your pet is uncomfortable. Don’t forget that this is how your pet communicates to you, and focus on what you can do to help ease your pet’s stress. Introduce your pet to your baby more slowly and if alarming behavior persists, seek professional help.
- Encourage a positive relationship: As your baby gets older, teach him/her to love and respect your pets, and not to bother them or yank at their tails or steal their toys! It’s an incredible experience to watch baby and pet grow together, and gentleness and respect need to go in both directions!
Pets are an incredible way to bring out the nurturing side of children and it can be amazing to watch a sweet friendship evolve over time. Recent studies have also shown that babies who live with pets (especially dogs) have a better immune system than those who don’t. Most of all, pets make for early and interesting companions for your growing infant and practicing a positive relationship with pets can boost a child’s self-esteem, responsibility, and respect for living things.
If you have any tips for introducing your dog (or other furry family member!) to your baby, let us know what they are in the comments below!