Having just celebrated Mother’s Day this past weekend, the topic of welcoming a new baby into a home with pets seemed perfectly timely! Are you expecting, or thinking about bringing a baby into your home, but want to be sure that your pets will have an easy transition? Handling your pet’s curiosity, anxiety and increased insistence for attention may seem like an overwhelming task, in addition to preparing yourself and your household for the baby’s arrival. You can, however, help your pet adjust to the big changes ahead with minimal time and effort by making gradual adjustments to your lifestyle before the baby arrives! Check out our tips and tricks, and keep in mind – every household situation is unique.
If you have questions about how to make your particular situation as stress-free as possible, consider giving our Behavior and Training Team a call at 585-295-2999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before the baby comes
It’s important to make sure that the environment of your home is prepared and comfortable for both your new baby and your pets! Here are a few ways you can use positive reinforcement to help your pet feel desensitized and prepared for the arrival of a new addition.
– Try to imagine some of the changes your pet will experience in their life! For example, if your baby is going to be sitting in the backseat of the car where your pet normally sits, consider moving your pet’s normal position into the back, or front, of the car – somewhere other than the back seat. This may help your pet ease into the new transition, and not necessarily associate the change with the baby’s arrival. You may also want to introduce a baby doll into their environment. Practice carrying the doll around the house, doing tummy time, and holding the baby doll around your dog, and reward them when they behave appropriately.
– Practice desensitization to the sound of a baby’s cry before the baby actually arrives! There are lots of videos on YouTube that allow you to play the sound of a baby’s noises. Playing these at random times throughout the day, and rewarding your pup when the noise plays with a treat, is a way to associate the sound with something good (treats), and reduce their fear of a new noise. This worked for Brandi! She began to associate the sounds of a baby crying with treats, and once her little brother arrived, she wasn’t bothered by the sounds of his cries.
– You may want to also practice some of your dog’s normal training during the crying videos. This way, they will learn that they still have to sit, lay down, or even go to their crate while the baby is crying, giving you, the new parent, time to attend to your baby.
– You may want to consider putting up a baby gate outside of your nursery. While in Brandi’s case, the nursery was not necessarily off limits, it’s best for your dogs to not be in the nursery with the baby while you’re not in the room. Supervision, for both babies, and dogs, is key!
After the baby arrives
– Positive association, positive association, positive association! It’s a good idea to set up treat jars all around your home in places where you know the baby will frequent, like on the nightstand and in the nursery. In Brandi’s case, when her new brother first arrived, she would get a treat and high praise just for entering a room calmly or laying down. This way, your dog should learn that good things happen for them when they behave appropriately in rooms where the baby is!
– Once this stage is in effect, and you feel confident that your dog can be calm around the new baby, you may want to start rewarding them with treats and praise for positive interactions. Brandi, for example, got treats for sniffing and gentle nose nudges. Laying near the baby calmly meant lots of treats and extra snuggles!
– Guests coming into the home with a new baby pose a totally different kind of scenario. Of course, a baby is very exciting, and guests may come into your home feeling ecstatic to meet them! In Brandi’s home, she was given the honor of being enthusiastically greeted by guests first. Your pets deserve love and attention too, and by rewarding them with a little extra love from guests first and foremost, they’ll soon come to see that they’re still an important member of the family.
– Consider including your pet in some of the baby’s fun activities! When appropriate, allow your pet to join in play sessions or walks in the stroller. (Pro tip: teaching your dog loose leash walking is a great way to prepare for stroller sessions! This means that when you’re walking your dog on a leash, they’re not pulling against you, but rather walking at a reasonable pace with a slack leash. Click here to watch a quick video that teaches the basics of loose leash walking!) This is another great way to remind your pet that when they’re around the baby, good things happen!
Click here to find more resources for introducing your new baby to a home with pets, including cats! And remember, if you have any questions about your pet’s behavior, or if you’re looking for additional advice about welcoming home a new baby, give us a call at 585-295-2999 or email email@example.com.
Happy Mother’s Day!