New babies are a joy, but they also completely change your life, turning your routine upside down.
Now imagine what it’s like for your pet, who has to experience a sometimes traumatic change to his pack. If you are pregnant you do need to consider how your pet will cope with the arrival of a new family member. And there are some simple things you can do to make the transition easier, for all members of the family. Here are some tips to prepare your pet for a new baby:
- Set aside a space in the home where your pet won’t be disturbed, such as a corner of the carport for the dog, or a high shelf for your cat. This becomes his special space with his water bowl, blanket and food dish. This is where he can retreat to when the baby’s crying or fuss in the home overstimulates him.
- Training your pet for a new baby is really important, even if your dog or cat is usually very chilled and used to change. If, say, your dog sleeps on the bed, this has to stop. Dogs see height as dominance and he should never be higher than the baby. So get him down on the floor or even better, out of the room, as soon as you discover you’re pregnant.
- Dogs need to know who the boss is and if you’ve been a little slack on training with the basics such as sit, stay and come, it’s a good idea to train your dog now. Make sure you teach your dog that he goes through the door last and that he eats last so he understands who is in control. That way when there is a baby in the house he knows you are the alpha male and that it’s you who he has to pay attention to. This will make him feel safer, and make the family run smoother.
- As baby grows into a toddler, she will want to poke and prod your pets. Before she gets to this stage you can help your dog or cat get used to this type of treatment by regularly and gently touching him on the paws, tail, in the ears and around the mouth. Have treats on hand and do this regularly throughout the day. He will soon get used to it.
- Buy your pram and cot well before baby arrives so your animal gets used to this new furniture. If you’re a dog owner, start taking the pram with you on walks before bub arrives. If you are a cat owner, it’s really important to teach your cat that jumping on the baby furniture is a big no-no. Grab a spray bottle and every time the cat jumps on the pram or cot, give her a quick squirt.
- If you feel you need some professional advice, because you’re worried your pet won’t cope with a new arrival, ask your vet. There are professionals who offer training in getting pets baby ready.
If you are at all concerned talk to your vet or pet trainer. Growing up with a pet is a beautiful thing for any child and pets and babies can live in harmony with a little planning, some adjusting and gentle training.