If you already have a dog and are expecting your first child, there are steps you can take to prepare the existing member(s) of your family for your new arrival. While there are no hard-and-fast rules about how to ease this transition for your pet, taking purposeful steps will help ensure a safe and fear-free environment for both and a potential friendship unlike any other.
You’ll want to do a better job than the animated parents in the Disney classic, Lady and the Tramp. As you may recall, the couple almost completely ignored Lady, the winsome cocker spaniel who was once the apple of their eye. While your dog may not have the likes of Tramp telling her in plain English that “when the baby moves in, the dog moves out,” the changes will no doubt prompt uneasy feelings for your canine friend.
To help reduce the difficulties that could come once you’re bringing your baby home, try to prepare your pet for the transition by doing the following:
- Incrementally spend less time with her, so it’s not as much of a shock when your baby’s demands require you to do so.
- If the person to whom your dog is most attached happens to be the mom-to-be, try to encourage other people to nurture a relationship with your dog.
- Make sure your dog is up on all vaccines and has been recently checked over by a Veterinarian.
- Train your dog to eliminate any troublesome behaviors, and address any safety concerns you may have with your Veterinarian or Pediatrician.
- Expose your pet to some of the new sights, sounds, and smells that will come with your new baby. (After he or she is born, you can do this by bringing home a blanket or article of clothing with your baby’s unique scent on it.)
- Set necessary boundaries for your dog and enforce them stringently. For instance, you may want to keep her out of the baby’s room or disallow her from jumping into your lap without express permission.
All that preparation will be helpful, but you’ll still want to carefully orchestrate your baby and dog’s first meeting. For starters, ask someone else to bring your baby into another room while you greet your dog and give her a treat. Next, you’ll want to closely supervise your dog as she sees your baby for the first time. While you don’t want to force close contact, if you have no concerns and your dog is behaving properly, you don’t want to discourage all interaction. Finally, reward your dog for good behavior around baby, making this first experience a positive one for all involved.