Veterinarian Advice: How to Safely Introduce Your Pets to a New Baby

Veterinarian Advice: How to Safely Introduce Your Pets to a New Baby

Congratulations on adding to your family! Bringing a new baby home is an exciting and significant life changing event…particularly for our pet pals. Here are a few tips to help make the transition seamless and enjoyable for the entire family. 

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We know that it is vital to receive accurate information on such an important topic. We found the following expert tips to be very wise counsel! 

Dr. Amy L. Pike, DVM, DACVB is chief of the behavior medicine division of the Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia. Dr. Chip Beall is a veterinarian at Springboro Pet Hospital. He and his father, Dr. Gary Beall, also host the Podcast Vets Talk Pets.

Together, these professionals have some solid advice for introducing a new baby to your pets. These suggestions come from years of experience in their practice. They also agree that implementing many of these tips before the arrival of a new baby will help make the transition as easy as possible for your pet. 

Set Up New Baby Gear Early

This is your pooch’s one chance to test out the baby swing while he’s still “the baby” (and not get in trouble).

Modern babies have a lot of gear, from a crib to a bassinet, swing, lounger, stroller, baby carrier, etc. It’s best to slowly introduce all of the new baby equipment throughout your pregnancy or in preparation to adopt. Dr. Pike suggests that you “Start getting all of the equipment out as soon as possible so that it is not an abrupt change and it’s more gradual over the nine months.”

Small things like carrying the baby carrier around the house or getting the babies’ room set up will allow your pet to get comfortable with all the new smells and equipment before there’s also a new baby to get used to.

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Veterinarian Advice: How to Safely Introduce Your Pets to a New Baby

Be Prepared to Handle Jealousy

A little jealousy is normal when introducing a sibling to a new baby. Children and pets can both display this type of behavior. It’s even normal for a pet to act up or display some attention-getting behavior. Your fur baby was “your first child” and currently gets all of your love and affection. It may take a little time for them to get used to their new role as big brother or sister and the split attention.

Dr. Pike warns, “one of the biggest mistakes we make as parents is only paying attention to the dog when the baby is sleeping or otherwise occupied. This may cause the dog to truly perceive the baby as taking attention away from him.” Dr. Pike suggests finding a balance to help your pet from becoming jealous around your child.

To accomplish this, you can incorporate simple ways to give both some attention simultaneously. Don’t wait until your child goes to sleep to pet or play with your dog. Help your dog feel like a part of the family when the baby is around by giving them belly rubs and pats and playing with them when the baby is awake.

Dr. Pike advises that if your dog gets played with and trained while holding your baby, “it will start to associate the baby’s presence with good things.” Similarly, your baby will observe you playing with your pup and begin to understand how to interact with him. Babies will start interacting with pets around six months or earlier. In most cases, babies become fast friends with the family pet.

 

Veterinarian Advice: How to Safely Introduce Your Pets to a New Baby

Of course, still give your dog one-on-one time like you did before the baby came. It will reassure your dog that even though there is change, they will get to do the things they are used to doing, like going on walks or playing fetch in the yard with dad. 

Consider Making Furniture Off-Limits

Pets can be territorial with furniture, so it’s a good idea to go ahead and make furniture off-limits to them now to break any bad habits.

Dr. Pike shares that some pets can become aggressive if a child approaches while they are resting on the furniture. You can avoid this by training your dog that they are not allowed on the couch, bed, or other furniture BEFORE baby arrives. You can help your dog transition by treating them to a new bed. Of course, this works both ways. If your pet is territorial, you will have to teach the baby that the pet bed belongs to the dog.

Create a "Safe Zone" for Meal Time

Dr. Pike advises, “One of the times kids are most often bitten by their own dog is when the child interacts with the dog while he’s eating.” You can create a protective barrier for both your dog and your baby. You may need to put a physical barrier around your dog’s meal space. Move their food behind a baby gate. You can keep the stress out of mealtime by changing this now before the baby arrives. Doing so will help to create a smooth transition for your pet.

As your curious baby grows and becomes more mobile, your dog will already have a space to eat where they feel safe and not threatened by this tiny little human who stole the spotlight. As your child grows, you can teach them that you can’t approach a dog while eating. And soon enough, they will be helping to nurture and care for your pet as well.

Veterinarian Advice: How to Safely Introduce Your Pets to a New Baby

Adjusting to Unfamiliar Stimuli

Crying babies can be anxiety-inducing for parents and pets alike. Dr. Chip Beall recommends introducing your pet to baby noises long before bringing the baby home from the hospital. This can help alleviate some of the stress your dog might encounter with a new little noise maker in the home. It is important to desensitize your pet to baby sounds ahead of time.

Once the nursery was set up (a few weeks before their due date), Dr. Chip occasionally placed his phone in the crib while playing baby noises. To try this approach, you can find a video online that plays noises babies make. Keep the volume at a level that doesn’t cause fear, and have some high-value treats available. This will help your pet to associate the baby noises with something positive.

Another brilliant tip that Dr. Chip employed was using one of the first blankets used at the hospital. He took it home to familiarize the dog with the baby’s scent and brought it home a day before mom and baby came home so he could introduce it to the dog. He let the dog sniff it and play with it and then put it in the dog’s bed for him to play with. You can do this with a blanket or toy. Dr. Chip recommends that new parents take these steps to help ease their dog into home life with a new baby to help make the transition seamless for the whole family.

Veterinarian Advice: How to Safely Introduce Your Pets to a New Baby

Managing Anxiety

If you are anxious, your pets will sense your stress.

Animals can sense your emotions and know if you are stressed about introducing them to your new family member. Seasoned veterinarian Dr. Gary Beall says that “if you’re fearful of what will happen, they will pick that up and be fearful themselves.”

Dr. Gary recommends that when you bring your baby home and introduce them to your pet, you try to be calm and relaxed and pay attention to the environment. He suggests that you “make the lights low and have plenty of treats on hand to make it a positive family affair.”

The odds are in your favor; your child and pet will likely be life-long friends. There are many positive pet ownership benefits for kids, and you’ll love watching your babies grow up together!

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Attention: Due to the new Department of Transportation (DOT) policy, Emotional Support Animals are NO longer allowed to fly in airplane cabins for free. However, Psychiatric Service Dogs are eligible. Click here to see if you qualify.