Pets aren't the only ones who need a little (or a lot) of help adjusting to life with a newborn. No matter how much you plan ahead, the addition of a new family member may be difficult for your pet. Remember, your dog or cat was your first "baby" and is used to being the center of your attention. So it's understandable that he may experience something akin to sibling rivalry when you introduce a new human baby into your home. You can help your pet cope with this big change in the same way parents help children understand that a new brother or sister will be joining the family. The following tips below will help ease you pets' stress, help welcome your new baby, and ensure that you pet stays where he belongs- with you and your growing family.
- Before you bring your baby home from the hospital, have a family member or friend take home something with the baby's scent, such as a blanket for your pet to investigate. Each time you introduce something new to your pet, make the experience positive. Stroke him, give him treats and praise him for his good behavior when he's faced with a strange new sound or smell.
- When you return from the hospital, your pet will be eager to greet you and receive your attention. Have someone else take the baby into another room while you give your pet a warm, but calm, welcome. Keep some treats handy so you can distract your pet. After the initial greeting, you can bring your pet with you to sit next to the baby; reward your pet with treats for appropriate behavior. Relax! If you act anxious, your pet will be anxious too.
- Don't speak to your pet with negative tones when the baby's in the room ("no," "off," "don't," "stop")? If so, your pet will certainly connect unhappy feelings with the baby's presence. While you hold your baby, smile at your pet and use his name.
- Life will no doubt be hectic caring for your new baby, but try to maintain regular routines as much as possible to help your pet adjust. Routine is important to pets because they need to know what to expect. Think ahead and gradually begin establishing new routines early on. Include in your adjusted schedule at least once a day, quality time for just you and your pet, with no competition for your attention. This "non-baby" time is very important for your pet and for you!
With proper training, supervision, and adjustments, you, your new baby, and your pet should be able to live together safely and happily as one (now larger) family.