You see pictures and videos all over social media of babies with their family dog or cat, sharing unbearably cute bonding moments.
While there’s no guarantee that your pet is actually going to get along with its new sibling, Dr. Courtney Wiegard, a veterinarian who partners with Carilion Children’s to offer a class to expectant parents called “Introducing Your Four-Legged Baby to Your New Baby,” offers some ways you can make the friendship more likely.
Assess Your Pet
- Be sure to address any existing behavioral or medical issues in your pet long before the baby comes home.
- All shots, dewormer and heartworm and flea prevention should be up to date; also make sure your pet’s nails are trimmed.
- If your pet has never been around children, try to expose them to kids before your baby comes home, so they can start getting used to the new sights and sounds.
Prepare Your Home and Your Pet
- Once you have the baby’s space prepared, introduce your pet to it. Let them get used to what’s new before the baby is there.
- Gradually introduce your pet to sounds, toys and scents that will be associated with the baby. You might even use a doll to make the situation as realistic as possible, or get a CD of baby sounds to help your pet get used to what life will be like when the baby is there.
- Decide which areas will be off-limits to your pet. Using baby gates is a good way to keep pets out of some areas.
When Baby Arrives
- Before you bring your baby home, have someone bring a blanket, hat or shirt that the baby has used for your pet to smell.
- Have mom be the first to greet your pet and release some of its energy. Spend a little bit of quality time with your pet before bringing in the baby.
- Keep your pet on a leash initially and gradually introduce them to the baby.
Living With Your Baby and Pet
- Even though you trust your pet, they should always be supervised when around the baby. Designate a safe place in your house to isolate your pet if they can’t be under direct supervision.
- Be sure to use positive reinforcement to encourage your pet and help them continue good behavior. Scolding your pet can just increase stress and anxiety.
- Remember, you don’t have to take everything on yourself. Enlist the help of friends, neighbors, family or even a hired dogwalker to help with your pet while you’re adjusting to life with your new baby.
As Your Baby Grows
- Don’t let your baby push, pull, lie on, poke or prod your pet. Babies and toddlers are too young to understand the effect their actions have on your pet, and every pet has its limits.
- Teach your child respect for animals at an early age and enlist them to help with caring for your pet.