Becoming a new parent is filled with firsts. One of these firsts is introducing your pet to your baby. Though babies are new for both parents and household pets, there are things parents can do so pets and children become properly acquainted and form a friendship that will last for years to come.
Veterinarian Dr. Kim Carvalho suggests a few ways parents can start preparing their pet for a new baby before the baby even arrives. She encourages parents to make sure pets are trained, examined for parasites, and up to date on vaccines before the baby arrives. Aggressive behaviors should be recognized and tamed as well. Training refresher courses are a great way to emphasize positive reinforcement and to go over proper behaviors a pet needs to have for when there is new baby in the house. Trainers who have experience with babies can help design training, exercise and safety plans for your family.
Bringing your baby home is a big day for the whole family. When coming home have dad or someone else hold the baby while mom gives the pet a normal greeting. This helps reassure the pet that everything is okay. Mom can then hold out one of the baby’s blankets for the pet to smell. During this process, dogs should be kept on a loose lead in order to avoid any accidents.
As your baby grows, proper expectations should be set and adhered to. During feedings, animals should not be allowed to share food with the baby. Teaching animals that food belongs to the baby is a step towards creating a relationship that has boundaries. A pet should never be given a doll to play with as this could lead to rough play with the baby. Restricting rough play in areas where the baby will be crawling will also help reinforce proper behavior around the baby.
As soon as your child can understand, it is important to teach them to be gentle with pets as well. Teaching kindness and respect for animals will help build a strong and friendly relationship between your pet and baby. Parent educator Rona Renner explains the many benefits of having a pet in your home. As children grow, a pet can help them learn about the life cycle and encourage exercise. Pets also offer a child the opportunity to experience love through a relationship with their animal.
However, if you don’t already have a pet before your baby is born, you may want to consider the responsibilities of being a new parent before making the decision to bring a pet into the home. The relationship that a child has with a pet can be a friendly one if parents take the proper steps to nurture the bond.