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Introducing dogs or pets to your new baby
Let me guess, if you are having your first child, right now your baby is your dog or cat?
We all go through it when our pets are our babies.
It’s almost like a test to see how you and your partner will parent. Especially if you get a puppy, it feels like you have a baby.
Getting a pet can be a massive commitment in your relationship. That is why your pet is so significant, it is a vital part of your family, it’s something you care for together.
It may have been the first thing you took care of together.
Believe me, I understand, sometimes you can feel like your pet is your whole world, and there is just no more space in your heart to love and care for anything else.
Your phone is full of puppy pictures with all of your dog or cat milestones. You think nothing could ever come between you and your pup.
Then you find out you are going to be a mom or dad to an actual human and reality kicks in …
Your pet is just that – your pet. But do not worry, it’s okay, your baby is going to be more important than everything else in your life, it’s just what happens when you become a parent.
Yes, you still love your little pup, but now you have to prioritize and prepare for the baby.
That is when it starts, your pup is no longer the center of the universe in the family.
You will figure out how to balance between your child and your pets. It may be rough at first, but things will eventually go from moving 100 miles an hour to an everyday routine.
Getting through the first few weeks may be the hardest part – but hopefully, you will be on maternity or paternity leave during that time.
Here are a few tips on how you can prepare for your baby during pregnancy and during those first few months. As always, the more you prepare in advance, the easier it will be when the baby arrives.
Remember, your baby will be foreign to your pets, so prepare them and take things one day at a time. Just start as early as possible in your pregnancy.
Disclaimer, I am not professionally trained to work with animals, so these tips are based on my experiences. My wife and I wanted to share our experience because when we asked our vet for advice on bringing our baby home, he did not have any advice.
Pregnancy with pet tips
We know, when you are pregnant (or have a pregnant partner) you have a million things to do! It is overwhelming but definitely worth putting working into.
During your pregnancy, you want to prepare your fuzzy or feathery friend as much as possible. Here are some tips on how to get started.
Brush up on your training
If your pup does not have the best manners, you may want to brush up on his or her training.
My wife’s entire pregnancy, walking was a huge priority to keep her active, so we involved our pups and also used that time to practice their training. We focused a lot on having them sit and stay.
If your dog is absolutely brilliant and knows the command, “quiet” practice that one as much as possible. Trust me, a bark can ruin your entire day. Getting a baby to sleep feels impossible, so when you actually do get your baby to sleep, you will want her to stay asleep as long as possible.
If trying to train your dog is not working, consider hiring a local professional to help you out. This is something you should strongly consider if your dog is aggressive or if you are anticipating having problems with your pet.
Talk to your pets about it
Every opportunity my wife had, she talked to our two pups about the baby. They knew something was going on when there was no way to cuddle with her because her belly kept growing.
If they know change is brewing, they can get scared and react with anxiety. So talk to your pets calmly about the situation. Even if it feels a little silly, it may help (even if it only helps you).
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See how your pet interacts with kids
Our pups were not around kids much because we always visited our nieces and nephews at their homes. So what we did was invite kids over to see how our pets interacted.
Unfortunately, one of our dogs was terrified of kids, so we knew we would have to work with her on getting her comfortable around them.
She was not happy around kids of all ages, and she did not like short adults with high-pitched voices either. We knew this might be the scenario, but we learned how bad it was during our pregnancy.
What we did was invite our older nephews over to be around her more often so she could get comfortable around kids, which she did. We did not make our nephews play with our dogs or anything like that, we just had them hang around our house.
We also realized our dog was most stressed when it was multiple children around. Plus, we also learned that after an hour or so she got used to them, only getting aggressive if they jumped around or made loud noises.
Once we figured out what the situation was, we were able to work with her to get adjusted before the baby came. Eventually, she got used to being around kids, and when our daughter arrived, it was not a big deal for her.
Learn how your pets may react with a baby or kids around. If you are lucky, they could be happy or not care. If you are like us, you will figure out what you must do to prepare.
Get them used to noises and baby cries
Except for loud metal music blaring every once in a while, our home was relatively calm and quiet. Our dogs had a sweet life. All they did was relax, play, eat treats, and sleep.
We knew that would change once we had a crying baby on our hands. So I found ‘baby crying audio’ and played it on my speaker every once in a while the last few months of our pregnancy.
The first time they heard the baby crying audio, their ears perked, and they were confused. Eventually, they got used to it and moved on with their lives. At that point, I knew that they would be able to deal and sleep despite having a crying baby in the house.
Sure enough, the first time our daughter cried they were a bit startled, but after that one time, they ignored it. I could tell they did not appreciate the late-night crying, but they were fine.
Along those lines, whenever our dogs get tired of our daughter, they know they can retreat to the living room. They have a bed and blanket on the couch. Even I go to the living room when I need a break.
When our daughter first arrived at home, my wife walked in first, and greeted them since she had not seen them in a few days. As soon as she walked in the house, our dogs were sniffing her like crazy!
They knew something was to come.
A few minutes later, I walked in with my daughter, and they were very interested. Our Maltese really wanted to get a good sniff of the baby and was obsessed. Our other dog was just happy that we were home.
After we let them sniff the baby and see her, they lost interest quickly and just wanted to relax as a family.
We did the same with our ferret. We let him sniff her a bit, although he was barely interested. Uninterested was the normal mood for our ferret.
Have a brief interaction with pet and baby
Each pet will react differently, keep that in mind. For us, luckily, it was not a negative experience by any means.
It was a moment my wife and I prepped for, thought about, and discussed before our daughter arrived. As dog owners, we were calm and confident while introducing all of our babies to one another. It was a huge moment in our life, bringing our baby home, we wanted it to be a sweet memory, and that is what we got.
Make your first introduction brief and greet your pets with the same enthusiasm as always.
There will be plenty of time for your baby and pets to get acquainted. They do not have to become best friends immediately. Do not expect it to happen during the first few years either. It takes time for both parties to get used to each other.
Although you may see all those cute animals protecting their babies, that is not the norm. Set your expectations and get ready for a bumpy ride.
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Always supervise your pet with baby
Despite us knowing that our dogs could care less about our baby, we never left the pups alone with our baby.
One thing that you must always remember is not to trust your pets. In any moment, something can snap, and they may want to attack. You just never know what is going on in their heads.
You can’t get too comfortable either, always be on alert. Yes, being a parent is exhausting, but again, safety is vital when having animals around your baby.
It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to your child’s safety.
Make time for your pets
Animals can display emotion, so pay attention. If your pet shows signs on jealousy or anger, keep an eye out.
One thing to do is to make sure you continue to give your pets as much attention as you can. Babies are extremely time-consuming, so squeezing in some quality time with your pet may be difficult.
Do your best, and if you find it hard to take your dog out for walks, get someone else to do it. Most people know how difficult it is having a newborn, so everyone always offers help, this is one way you can take it.
Do not let your pets lick your baby
I know, I know, seeing a dog lick a baby is gut-wrenchingly sweet. It makes you feel like they are getting along, and everything is right in the world.
Unfortunately, it’s not sanitary. Just think of all the times you scolded your dog for putting something gross in his mouth.
Think about the following:
- Does your dog eat poop?
- Does your cat hunt and kill small animals?
- Does your dog like to sniff butts?
- Does your bird groom itself endlessly with its beak?
- Do your pets have bad breath?
- Do your pets eat vomit?
- Does your ferret squeeze into dirty crevices around your house?
Yeah, there are plenty of reasons to not let your pet lick your baby. Hmm, maybe even a few reasons for you to not accept as many kisses from your pet.
As your baby grows
Once your baby starts noticing her surroundings, things like fuzzy pets become intriguing. Babies have this reflex of squeezing anything that comes near their hands, so when your child is exploring her new world, be mindful of that. It would not surprise me if your baby squeezes the fur that she feels when she first meets her pet.
Always be near to stop your pets from getting squeezed. Babies and toddler are not aware of their strength and do not know how to be gentle.
When babies want to touch something, they usually slap or grab it full force. While the action of hitting may not hurt your pet, it can definitely startle an animal.
At a very young age, we started teaching our daughter the word ‘nice.’ Every time we said nice we lightly put her hand over our dogs in a petting motion. She understood almost immediately.
We still catch her petting the dogs too hard, so we remind her to be nice. Even when I am playing with her, and she is overexcited slapping me, I say ‘nice,’ and she calms down a bit.
Your mobile baby may also chase your pet, which can be scary for an animal. As your child is learning to walk and crawl, make sure your pets are not within reach.
Teach your child early on not to chase or hit your pets
Same goes for hitting. Never laugh when your child hits your pets or anyone, make sure they know its wrong from a young age.
The earlier you start to teach a baby how to treat animals and others, the easier it will be to have pets around the house. It is also a good lesson in treating others kindly. Never reward, laugh, or show a positive reaction when your child treats an animal inappropriately.
**Further reading for dads:**
Introducing your new baby to your pets can be a daunting task if you are unprepared.
Preparing and knowing what to expect will ensure your baby is safe and your pets are content. After reading this article, hopefully, you have an idea of different scenarios you may face and feel comfortable about bringing your baby into your household.
The safety of both your child and pets should be your number one priority. The actions you take now can make a huge difference, so do not wait to think about these things when your pregnancy is at nine months. Especially if you have a pet with behavioral issues.
It may be pricey, but seeking professional animal training help may be valuable if you are uneasy about bringing your baby home. You know your pet the best, it’s a decision you must make.
Remember, your actions matter too if a child sees you mistreating your pet or animal, they will follow suit. Kids learn by observing, and they see and hear everything, especially as they get older.
Kids follow you and do everything you do.
If your child sees you hit your pet (which nobody should be doing in the first place), they will hit it as well. Respect your pet, and everyone around and your child will emulate your behavior. This goes for all of your behaviors, not just when it comes to the treatment of animals.