rspca

Preparing Your Pets for a New Baby

Pet Care
The birth of a new baby is an incredibly exciting time for you and your family. If you own a pet, it’s important that you have prepared them, and yourself, for the arrival of your new baby, so everything is hitch-free!
Evaluate existing routines
Consider re-evaluating current routines that may be affected once your baby is born. Questions you might like to ask is: Where will my pet sleep and eat? Is it necessary to change all routines? Where will I feed my baby when they start solids, and is it near where the pet eats? 

If you plan on changing anything, make sure you do so well in advance, prior to the arrival of the baby. 

Gradually changing feeding, walking, playing and sleeping times will help reduce your pet’s stress when the baby arrives. Hopefully with enough preparation and training you won’t have to disrupt your dog too much; however, if you’re unsure, contact the RSPCA School for Dogs, and they will be happy to provide you with further information on how best to make any transitions.

Meeting your pet's needs
It is important your pet’s mental, physical and social needs are met both before and after the baby is born. Make sure you have someone who can walk, feed and spend time with your pet when your baby is born.

Understand your pet’s behaviour

Does your pet like kids? How do they react to new things or situations? Do they bark a lot and how will this affect your baby? Understanding your pet’s behavioural needs allows you to adequately meet them. Consult with the RSPCA School for Dogs if you have any specific concerns about your pet’s behaviour.

Train your pet
Ensure your pet is familiar with basic commands before the arrival of your baby for an easier transition. If you own a dog, be sure to reinforce or refresh their basic manners this could be through professional dog training

Teaching your dog not to jump is incredibly important for you and the safety of your baby, and also teaches them what is expected, reducing their stress. Mat training is also a basic behaviour to have in place before the arrival of a baby, ensuring your dog knows it has a place to lie down and relax, instead of running around the house and causing disturbances. 

By reinforcing your dog for calm polite manners such as mat or crate training, you will be setting up everyone in the household for success! Be sure to train your pet with positive-reinforcement, as it is the most effective way to train your pet.

Prepare your pets
Familiarise your pet with new items in the house such as prams, cots and musical toys. Allow your pet to investigate these items and create positive associations with them. 

Utilise technology such as “Sound Proof Puppy Training” app or YouTube to expose your pets to the new noises they may encounter once the new addition comes home. Bringing a blanket from the hospital for your pet to smell can also help familiarise them with the smells of the baby.

Introducing your pet to your new baby
When bringing your baby home, have another family member to carry the baby, as this allows you to greet your pet in a calm, stress-free manner, as usual.

Once you are ready to introduce your new baby, allow your pet to calmly sit beside you or on their mat. Ensure you allow pets to smell the baby’s feet first and keep an eye on the pet’s body language. If you are worried about excitable behaviour from the dog you can use preventative measures such as ensuring the dog stays on the lead.

Remember to reward good behaviour and always have a jar of delicious doggy treats nearby and avoid scolding. Allow your pet to approach the baby at their own pace, and don’t discourage curiosity – only manage it appropriately. Slow and brief interactions will ensure safety and minimise stress on your pet, your baby, and yourself.

Peace at home
Trying to maintain a regular routine when bringing your new baby home can be quite difficult for both you and your pet. Ensure you give your pet some ‘quality time’ to avoid competitive behaviour, allowing them to adjust to new changes and remember to ensure any interactions are fun and positive for both the dog and baby!

Have a space dedicated to your pet for them to retreat once your baby becomes mobile. Using crates and baby gates is an effective way of allowing your pet to freely move away from your baby when needed.

When you are busy with your baby, encourage your pet to play with enrichment toys. This reinforces good behaviour when being directed to a certain area such as the mat. 

Dog walking
Unless you are confident walking your dog, it is advisable to try and have an extra set of hands. However, if you are walking your dog with your baby, make sure to never have the leash attached to the pram. If your dog gets suddenly startled, they could potentially tug and pull away. If you are having difficulties be sure to have someone else available to walk the dog or look after the baby so your dog can still have the appropriate amount of exercise they are accustomed to.

Sonia Wherritt
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