Introducing a New Baby to Pets

Jan 11, 2021   Tracey Aston   Pet Safety

Your new family member is here and it's time for mom and baby to come home! This will be the first time your pet gets to meet their new family member. Excitement will be high but it's important to follow each step slowly and with patience.

When entering the house with baby for the first time, let someone enter in front of the mother. This can be the father, an SO, family member or friend. It's especially important to follow this step if a pet is still working on their jumping manners. Jumping on a new mother could harm her, the baby or both of them.  Even if the pet isn't a jumper, it could run or slide into a very tired mother, knocking mom and baby down.  As well as providing a safety barrier for the new mom, the other person could take a moment to calm the pet, or if need be leash them or have the pet go to their crate until everyone has entered and is settled.

When first introducing a pet to a baby, it's best to do so at the kitchen table. A kitchen table allows for a new mom put protect her body while the new baby is elevated and secure, resting on top of the table in a carrier or car seat.  Mom can set the baby carrier on the table for the protection of the baby and she can tuck herself safely under the table. If an overzealous pet starts to jump, she can easily block the path with her arms while protecting the baby and herself.  A calm demeanor should be reinforced by being giving treats and praise to the pet.  If the pet isn't jumping and behaving well, allow them to sit next to the table and sniff their new family member. Dogs have incredible sense of smell and the baby doesn't have to be directly next to them for a dog to smell them. This should be a pleasant and calm experience for everyone. If the pet starts getting too excited, have the pet sit and calm down, if the pet keeps escalating in excitement, they may have to be removed until they calm themselves.

After the baby is home and settled, there is one extremely important point to remember – NEVER leave a baby alone with a pet. NEVER.  Many consider our pets to be family too and trust them as such but no dog is exempt from biting.  In fact, most dog bites in the US are with family pets and children. An innocent newborn with a grasp reflex may accidently grab a pet and they will react. For the safety of all family members, always practice active supervision. Being in the same room but not actively supervising may not leave enough time to get to the baby if something should happen suddenly. Newborns have a startle reflex which can be extremely startling for a dog cause the dog to reactive in a negative way, such as biting or they will take it as an invitation to play and accidently cause harm.

Pets should never be allowed alone in the nursery with a baby unsupervised. If a parent doesn't want to close the door to be able to hear the baby, a gate can be put in the door entrance to keep them pet out while keeping the door open.

It's important for the pet to always have a positive association with the new baby. Never put them outside or in a crate as soon as the baby comes out of the nursery. A pet will learn to associate the baby coming out of the nursery with something negative happening to them.  If a mother is feeding, someone can give the pet a yummy treat or play a fun game with them. Now, the pet is associating positive things happening when around the baby.

There is no way around it, new parents will be tired! Late night feedings and changings don't leave much extra energy, but a pet will still need to be exercised. A bored and hyper pet is much more likely to cause trouble. Hiring a Professional Pet Care Specialist to provide walks and play for your pet will go a long way to keep your pet happy and exercised while allowing a new parent the time they need to relax and heal. If you're looking to find a Professional Pet Care Specialist in your area, visit http://www.pittsburghspetsitters.com/directory/ to find a local professional in your area and the services they provide.

As you baby grows, teach them to respect the pet, the pet's space, food and water bowls and toys. Pets are often a child's first best friend and making a plan and following it can help set them on the right path for success.  At a certain age, supervised children can even slowly take on more responsibilities to help with pets.  For more information on encouraging a safe relationship between kids and pets, our blog article Kids and Pets. Pets are often a child's first best friend and making a plan and following it can help set them on the right path for success.   

 
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