We’ve noticed that there have been quite a few babies being born lately in Madison Park! This is always such a special time and brings families closer together. Understandably, when a new child is first brought into the home, your “first baby” is sometimes overlooked. There are many adjustments you can make to make the transition easier.
Many dogs accept a new baby without any problems; however, each dog is different and may or may not require extra help adjusting to the new little human in the household.
Preparing for the introduction
If this is your first infant, preparing your fur baby in advance is highly recommended. Teach your dog to sit, stay or lie down on voice command. This can help you tremendously, especially if you are up at 3 a.m. for a feeding or diaper change and don’t want your pup getting in the way, or possibly tripping you while you are holding the baby.
To habituate your dog or cat to new baby gadgets, smells and various baby routines, try role-playing activities, such as stroller walks with a doll, sitting in areas of your home with the doll in a baby blanket or practicing to change a diaper on the changing table (if your nursery is set up already). Add some baby powder to enhance the smell of an infant, and teach your dog or cat not to jump on the blanket or get too close to the stroller.
When you bring the infant home for the first time, have someone bring in the baby’s blanket or article of clothing to let your pet sniff it and become acquainted with the scent. In time, everything associated with the baby should become normal to your pet.
There are also CDs you may purchase that have sounds of babies crying, grunting, giggling, etc., to help desensitize your pet to the new, strange sounds that will soon be a part of your home.
If you have friends or family members with infants or toddlers themselves, invite them over to get your pet used to a little person around the house, and watch how they interact with the children.
It also a good idea to see your veterinarian before the baby arrives to ensure your pet is up-to-date on vaccinations and parasite prevention and has any recommended or necessary lab work done to make sure it is not carrying any illnesses or diseases.
Keeping them safe and secure
Animals do feel most comfortable with the security of a routine. Try to keep your pet’s meals and walking times on schedule if you have the ability to do so. If helpful, you may transfer primary caretaking duties of your pet to your partner, if you are usually the one who handles those tasks.
If you are unable to provide aerobic exercise for your dog when the baby first comes home, ask a friend or family member or employ a dog-walker to take your pup on jaunts around the block, or take your dog to a doggie day care to help it have some fun out of the house.
Try to give your pet acknowledgement when the baby is present so it doesn’t feel neglected. Making sure you show your four-legged children attention when you are holding the baby can help your pet learn to associate love with the new bundle of joy rather than rivalry.
Reward your dog or cat with treats and soft praises to develop positive associations between the baby and themselves.
Having a new “sibling” in the house should be a happy time for your pet. It is important to remember if you notice your pet is becoming stressed around the child, remove them from the area and give them time to cool off. Should any aggressive behavior toward the baby occur, consult an animal behavioral specialist.
MEGAN L. FOUCH is the office manager at the Madison Park Veterinary Hospital (www.madisonparkvet.com). To comment on this story, write to MPTimes@nwlink.com.