Does a New Baby Mean Giving Up Your Pet?

Pet parents learning they are expecting their own baby may have some real concerns about the safety of their child and even keeping their pets. The key is training and having a structure in place well before the new arrival joins the family.

You will have eight or nine months to prepare your pets, so let’s get started.

First, you can clear up concerns about health issues with a visit to the vet for an exam, vaccinations, spaying and neutering and parasite check. By talking with your veterinarian and pediatrician, often the dialogue itself can help alleviate worries.

Next are concerns about safe interactions. Having a newborn can be overwhelming for parents, and it can be for pets as well if they aren’t prepared. When you break it down simply, your dog’s structure will be very different. From his perspective, there will be a small squeaking and sometimes squawking little person there, you will be spending less time with him, and almost all of his boundaries, social distances, routines and rules will change. This sounds terrible, but everything here to your pet is just a matter of structure. It’s a training opportunity, which is not complicated at all if done early and gradually. And if he’s trained with positive reinforcement, he will love the training, and his structure will be all set when baby comes home.

Here’s a good top 16 outline to start you on your way to the arrival:

  • If your pet is closely bonded with the mom-to-be, let another family member start spending more time with him, gradually. Start by letting them do the feeding and gradually work in other activities.
  • Assess and address any disruptive behavioral issues now. You will have time to find a good trainer that can help clear these.
  • Start a grooming schedule. Clip his nails and bathe him while associating these activities with treats. Start by just clipping one nail a day rewarded with a treat.
  • Basic obedience with voice cues is vital. Sit/stay, down/stay, leave it and off are a must. But make the training fun. Teach him sit and reward with a great treat. Commands like “leave it” and “off” may seem like they are negative commands that need to be “barked.” Instead think of them as kind words that you might speak in a sentence. Ask him to put his front paws on a chair and say “off” in a gentle voice. Lure him off with a treat, or wait and when he moves his paws off, say “good” and give him a treat. Try to associate all of this training with positive fun treats and friendly voice cues.
  • Train him to stay off the furniture by giving them an alternative blanket on the floor by the sofa. Give him a cue to go to his blanket like “blanket” and treat him when he’s on the blanket. One session with a trainer should give you a good foundation to begin.
  • Enroll in a group class and, if you can, find one with small “squeaky” dogs who will sound more similar to babies, which can be a good place to desensitize to the sound of small squeaking babies and to practice listening to commands around these distractions.
  • Practice gently pulling your dog’s ears, tail, and feet and poking him like a baby might do. This is not to test your dog but to very gradually train him that these moves are fine, and he can stay relaxed. Do this by gently touching his ears and saying something like “what’s that” and giving him a treat. Do this gradually increasing the intensity and he will learn that “what’s that” along with a touch means a treat.
  • Invite your friends with small babies and children over for visits. Monitor the children with your pets at all times. Be sure to keep the children safe and to keep your dog safe. Small children often are drawn to a pet’s eyes and will poke them out of curiosity.  Remember, these visits are not to test your dog, but to help train him that children are safe and he can be relaxed and obedient around them without worrying about being hurt. They should keep a good social distance unless invited to come closer and then always should be closely monitored.
  • Desensitize pets to new noises and activities like a mechanical infant swing, a rocking chair or a recording of an infant crying. Rock while your dog enjoys his treat away from you on his blanket. This is an example of sit/stay and down/stay being an important basic.
  • Your pet probably has never seen a human crawl. Train him that crawling is perfectly fine and means treats. Have family members crawl around him and up to him while another person calls him over for a treat. Don’t train him that the crawlers have treats hidden in their pockets. Train him that crawling people mean good things happen around him.
  • Teach him that he can move away. Dogs often don’t realize they can just walk away. Without that option, they might snap to protect their personal space. Train them that they can move away. Have a treat and toss it a little way away as you say “move away” in a gentle happy voice. Just point in that direction and say “move away.” When he moves even one step, give him the treat. He will learn he can move away, back up and move all around when you say “move away.” This will give him more safe freedom around a baby and will give you more hands off control.
  • Train him to never jump up on the crib or changing table. This is where the cue “off” comes into play.
  • Train him to stay out of the baby’s room. But allow him to sit calmly at the door. This way he can watch and be a part of the activity. He will learn to respect the social distance and that space.
  • Put the baby toiletries on you before she is born so your dog is accustomed to the smells.
  • After she is born, but before she comes home, have someone bring home something that smells like the baby and let the pets smell it. Don’t let them play with it; just let them smell it as the person holds it. Keep this exercise calm and do it in short bursts.
  • When mom comes home, make the reunion smooth. Have another person bring the baby into the house while mom greets the pets. Keep all of this as calm as possible. Then go into the routine your dog has practiced. He waits at the baby’s room door while mom and baby interact or rock in the room.
  • And the rest should play out like a play that has been rehearsed for eight months.

Super Smiley, blog dog, here and I have a personal story to add. I wasn’t trained for a human infant, but I was trained just like this for Tout Suite The Travel Kitty. When I first came to my new forever home at Megan’s, there were three cats there. I loved cats and I wanted to track them and smell them and do something, but I didn’t know what because I never got one before, but I thought it would be so fun to have one. So right away Megan taught me that I could sit about five feet away and that was as close as I was allowed. I could look at Tout if I was soft and looking around at other things, but if I stared at him or focused on him, she told me to “leave it” and I had to look away. I wasn’t even allowed to look hard at him! So I learned that I could look at him if I was in that gentle relaxed mode. After I did all that perfectly for a few months, then I was allowed closer, and by then Tout just ignored me and all the newness had worn off so we were just buddies. Then pretty soon we were best friends.  

So as a dog, I truly believe all this can be accomplished. All you need is some focus and discipline to teach us, so we can be your child’s first best friend.

If you are concerned your pet may be anxious when you first bring your baby home or even when he’s first exposed to the new stimuli during training, a Calming Collar may help calm him so he can focus on his training and remember his lessons when your baby comes home.

Until Next Time,
Woof and Super Smiles from,
Super Smiley and Megan Blake, The Pet Lifestyle Coach®

 

 

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