Most expectant parents are concerned about how the family pet will react when the new baby arrives. While each pet has a distinct personality and ability to adjust, you can help it cope with the inevitable shift in your attention.
Maintaining a structured routine throughout the pregnancy, and after you bring the baby home, is a first step in the right direction.
Just as you help other children understand that a new brother or sister soon will join the family, you can ease your pet's stress and help it welcome the new baby.
Here are some tips:
Before the baby arrives
Make sure your pet is already spayed or neutered. Sterilized pets are generally healthier and calmer.
Resolve any behavior problems with appropriate training.
Playful nibbling, pouncing, or swatting needs to be stopped. You may have gotten used to those behaviors, but your new baby will not be able to defend itself.
Teach obedience. Basic commands such as sit stay, down, stay and come are the minimum your pet should know.
Also, train your pet to stay calm on the floor until you invite him to come closer. That is a safe and humane way to control your pet.
If you will have to change feeding places or sleeping spots for your pet, do it now.
Introduce your pet to baby behavior and sounds. Play recordings of a baby crying or turn on an infant swing and use a rocking chair.
Gentle stroking and pulling of the ears, paws or tail, as a child might do, needs to be introduced.
Reward your pet for accepting these experiences positively.
A baby doll, wrapped in a blanket could be carried around in the house. Talk to the doll as you would talk to the baby.
New smelling items such as baby powder or lotions should be used on your skin for the dog to get used to.
When the baby is born, bring home some clothing or a blanket so your pet can get used to your baby's particular scent.
When the baby comes home
When you first arrive, it is good to have a friend bring the baby in the house and to the nursery. room. Greet your pet as you do any other time you have been gone for a while. Make it a warm, calm greeting and have some treats ready if needed for a quick distraction.
When he is calm and you have greeted him fondly, introduce your pet to the baby. A leash may be helpful if the pet gets over exuberant. Praise him for keeping a safe distance.
Always keep a close eye on the dog and the baby to see how the pet will react to baby's activities.
Interact with your pet when baby is both awake and asleep. One-on-one time with your pet may be relaxing for you, as well. The dog will not feel left out too much if you give him five to 10 minutes a day.
Never leave your pet alone with an infant. A baby cannot push the dog or cat away if it cuddles too closely.
Always keep the baby higher than the pet's head. A baby lying on the floor or ground is vulnerable to an attack.
Allow your pet to explore the baby's room, diapering areas and sleeping areas to get familiar with the smells.
Do not let your pet sleep on the baby's furniture or sleep in the baby's room. Close the door and use a baby monitor.
Use toys for the pet that do not resemble baby toys. Stuffed or squeaky toys may confuse both as the baby gets older.
Most of all, do not get stressed. Both the baby and the pet are very sensitive to stress and it will only produce more tension.
If you need any help on this very important issue please call or e-mail me anytime.
Birgit Edler is the owner of Canine College in Juno Beach, which offers grooming, training and day care services for dogs and cats. Call (561) 626-0552 or e-mail Caninecollegefl@yahoo.com.