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    How to Introduce Your Baby to your Pet

    If you have a baby on the way, you and your partner are not the only ones expecting; your fur baby will be anticipating a new addition to your family, too! It’s important to prepare your dog or cat for the arrival of their sibling, even if your pet is naturally gentle and easygoing. Dr. Stephen Lee has some tips and tricks to help your furry best friend meet their new best friend.


    When and how should you start preparing to introduce your pet to the baby?

    At the six-month mark, you should be allocating new routines for your pets. “Most of these animals have had free roam of the house, and a lot of people have an extra room in their house where they put the dog bed or the litter box. This room usually ends up being the baby’s room,” says Dr. Lee. “Early on, you’ve got to start relocating your pet’s stuff. Start finding other locations in the house to become their spot.”

    You should also prepare your pet for all the physical presence of the baby, such as the noises and the toys. “When you start having baby showers and getting those hand-me-down toys, put them together so you can desensitize your pet to those new objects. Get them used to the noises beforehand. Nowadays, everything makes so much noise, so put the batteries in those toys and let your pet start listening to stuff,” Dr. Lee adds.


    How do I set boundaries for my pet and child?

    “Every parent has a different idea of how involved they want their pet to be with their child,” says Dr. Lee. “Put the baby gate up if you want to; make sure your dog or cat knows they are not allowed in there.”

    Even if you don’t mind your pet being in the same room as your baby, it’s important to establish boundaries ahead of time if it is going to change your pet’s routine. Teach them the boundary now so that your dog or cat does not correlate it to the baby and think the baby is the reason they are being restricted.

    You should also make sure your pet respects when the baby is in your lap or on a piece of furniture. “Most people, before they have kids, will sit in a chair, and their animal will come peeling around the corner and flying into their lap. All of a sudden, when you sit down, you’re gonna have a baby in your hand, so your pet needs to learn to sit before they go in your lap or sit next to you,” Dr. Lee shares. “They have to be asked, told, and taught; they aren’t going to do it the day the baby comes home.”

    It could be helpful to use a baby doll to teach your pet how to respect this boundary. Hold the baby doll and let your pet know that they can get on the couch, but they have to sit next to you and not on top of you.


    How do I approach the first meeting?

    “The big thing I saw is you cannot force the bond between your two-legged kid and your four-legged kid,” says Dr. Lee. “You want to keep that first introduction very brief and very supervised. Usually what I say to do is have the baby in their carrier, on the ground, and let your pet come up and sniff it. Some dogs are going to be excited, and some are going to look at the baby and be like, ‘see you later! I don’t want anything to do with what’s in there.’ I recommend that, unless you absolutely know your animal is going to be okay, put them on a leash so you can pull back if it gets too inquisitive.”

    Don’t make a big deal out of the first meeting. If you think your dog will be concerned about the baby, be sure to make the meeting without having your family there. Everybody is going to want to be there when the baby gets home, but you can’t have an entourage and expect your dog to have a great first meeting with the baby. So, have your family wait outside and give you 15 minutes to let your pet sniff the baby before letting everyone come in. Dogs and cats get overstimulated, so they can’t bond with your baby when their surroundings are crowded and noisy.


    What are some things I should and should not worry about?

    One thing parents worry about the most is their pet biting their kid. The truth is, your pet will only bite if they feel threatened.

    “You’re dealing with a newborn, and that newborn is no threat to your animal whatsoever,” Dr. Lee notes. “The child cannot grab them, run after them, or corner them. That problem comes when the child turns about 7 months old and starts to crawl, grab, and bite. The good news is your pet has several months to get used to the child. I would say that, of the 100% of parents concerned about their pet biting their child, only 1% still has that fear by the time 6 months roll around.”

    Usually, that 1% has reason for concern because their pet is untrustworthy, but, if you start the discipline early, you will have plenty of time to work through that. Cats are likely to avoid the child at all costs for some time because cats do not tend to like things they are unsure of. So, your cat should not cause any problems. If you’re a dog owner, one thing you should take care of is your dog’s obedience skills.

    “I tell everybody, if you find out you’re pregnant, why not get a few sessions with a dog trainer to teach your dog the basics: “no,” “sit,” and “stay,” says Dr. Lee. “If a dog can learn these three things, you will have no problem. And, the earlier you get them trained, the less stress there will be.”

    Parents are also often worried about their dog licking the child. Rest assured, your dog will not give your child a disease by licking them (think about it: your dog has licked you plenty of times and has not gotten you sick). If you’re still worried about your dog licking your baby, you can get their teeth clean before the baby comes home so they have a clean mouth.
    Another thing: everybody wants their pet to fall in love with their baby on the first day, but some relationships take time! There is not a dog or a cat that loved mom and dad before they had a kid that will not be able to love them all at some point. Be slow, patient, and gentle, and soon your fur baby will get along just fine with your real baby.

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