Thursday, March 11, 2010

How to Introduce a New Baby to Your Pet

By Suzanne Alicie

New babies and all the excitement they bring into your life also bring upheaval to your household. There are months of preparation, many new items brought in, and more than likely a lack of attention for your pet. In order to keep the peace when your new baby comes home, it is important to properly introduce the baby to your pet and include the pet as often as possible.

Pets are often considered and treated as the babies of the family. When a new baby arrives your pet could see it as a competitor for your attention. To get your pets used to a baby before the little one arrives, you can do some integration of the baby’s stuff within the house.

• Set up a swing and playpen, and work with your pet to train him not to make himself at home in these places. Allow the pet to sniff and explore the new items, and then promptly remove him. It may take several weeks to train your pet about these areas, so starting a few months before the baby arrives is a good idea.

• Let your pet visit the nursery and smell all the new things in his home. This will allow him to become accustomed to the smells and presence of the new items.

• Purchase a baby doll, and if you can find one that cries or moves that is even better. Practice around the house with this baby doll, letting your dog or cat see the movement and hear the cries. This will get your pet used to seeing you carrying a noisy moving item around so that when the baby arrives, the noise and movements won’t frighten them or make them nervous. Also consider a cat’s tendency to swat things that move, and train your cat not to play with the doll.

Even with all of this preparation you will still have to let your pet examine the baby when you bring it home. Hold the baby and have another family member hold your pet to allow it to gently nudge and smell the baby. Avoid letting your pet get in the baby’s face but don’t be forceful or nervous about it. Pets pick up on your emotions and if your animal feels that you are on edge, he will associate that with the baby and could become protective.

Don’t leave your pet with your baby unattended, but continue to allow the pet to be near you while caring for the baby. This will reassure your pet that he is still part of the family.

I had a cat when my oldest son was born, and family members threw a fit about me having a cat in the house with a newborn. But my cat fell in love with the baby; the worst thing I had to deal with was fighting to keep the cat from curling up with him when he napped in the playpen. She had no interest in the playpen until he went to sleep, then she wanted to sleep on his feet, just like she did on mine. She had adopted him as her pet. Every pet is different and each has their own personality.

If you have a pet that does not adjust to the baby or is in any way aggressive toward the baby you must remove it from the area. This does not mean you have to find another home for your pet, just that until your baby is older you may have to use a crate or gates to keep the two separated.

No matter how you handle the integration of a baby into your pet’s home, your pet will need some one-on-one attention and praise for being such a good friend. While that may seem to be asking a lot from new parents, simply consider your pet to be an older sibling and treat him the same way you would another child dealing with a new attention grabber in the house.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

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