Introducing a Dog or Cat to a Baby
Bringing home your new baby is an exciting time. It can also mean a lot of change for your dog or cat. You can help your four-legged family member adjust with some planning and preparation. Read on to learn how to introduce your pet to a baby.
Why is preparing your dog or cat for a baby important?
Your pet is part of the family. Bringing a new baby home can cause a disruption in your pet's daily life. Think about it from your pet's perspective. Suddenly there's another human, only smaller, with sounds, smells and moves that are different from yours.
This can be distressing for your pet. Your dog or cat may associate this stress with the baby, and that negative impression can last. That's why it's important to prepare both dogs and cats for your baby's arrival home. Before introducing your dog to the baby, it's especially important to start making gradual changes before bringing your baby home.
5 ways to prepare a pet for the baby
“It's best to make gradual changes in your pet’s routine rather than abrupt changes when the baby arrives,” explains Ragen McGowan, Purina Senior Scientist, Human/Animal Bond. Fortunately, pregnancy gives you several months to prepare your pet for your baby’s arrival.
- Adjust your pet’s routine to one you can keep consistent
- Carve out special one-on-one times with your pet
- Brush up on obedience training for your dog
- Create a few pet-free zones in the house
- Introduce your pet to baby equipment like strollers
Why do dogs need more preparation than cats?
There are a few reasons dogs need more time to adjust to change in your home. Dogs typically have a set routine. Likely, all of that will change once the baby arrives. A new routine, along with new sounds and smells could be upsetting to your dog. That's why it's important to take the time to prepare your dog for a new baby.
Tips for bringing baby home
If mom comes in alone, it “will give pets time to say hi without them jumping up on the baby,” McGowan says.
After that, bring the baby inside to a pet-free room so your dog or cat can smell and hear the sounds your baby makes.
“For dogs especially, it can be helpful to make introductions with a helper bringing the dog into a neutral room on a leash where you are sitting holding the baby,” McGowan explains. This gives your dog the opportunity to approach you and the baby calmly.
Introducing your cat to your baby is different from introducing a dog to a baby. With a cat (or cats) ask another person to help. While you are seated holding the baby, have your helper carry in the cat and join you. This gives your cat a chance to approach and withdraw on her own.
A new baby is a new experience for your pet
- Reward your pet for calm behavior with praise and special treats.
- Give your pet plenty of attention when the baby is in the room. Your pet will associate positive experiences with the baby.
- Never leave your pet alone with the baby, no matter how easy-going or friendly your pet may be.
A well-planned, positive introduction will help your pet and your new baby develop a deep and loving bond that can last a lifetime.