My little sister Christina’s first word was not dada or mama – it was wow-wow, referring to our dog. That’s how connected she was to our late pug Arturo; they were the best of friends. In fact, he was one of my best friends too, as evidenced in this picture, circa 1988. I’m 9 years old and Arturo is a young pup. We were inseparable. Arturo passed away several years ago at the ripe old age of 98 (14 in people years) and is still missed dearly.
Babies and toddlers can form strong bonds with animals, but it’s not always an easy and immediate connection for an ‘only child’ pet who thinks they’re human. That’s why preparing the family pet for a new baby should be a tip-top priority.
Here’s how to get started:
Training: A few months prior to baby’s arrival, consider bringing in a trainer to address any behavioral problems. Teaching your dog basic commands can help you feel more in control and less anxious. (Cat owners may be out of luck on this one.)
The vet: Take your pet to the vet to ensure that he/she is in good health and up-to-date on shots. Let your vet know about the new addition to the family and ask for advice. Some vets will tell you that spayed/neutered pets are less territorial and thus less aggressive.
Smells and Sounds: This is BIG. Your pet will be on overload so try to introduce baby scents and sounds early on. Baby crying is a particularly troublesome sound for both cats and dogs. Let them sniff around the nursery, and definitely bring a blanket home with the new baby’s scent on it before coming home from the hospital.
Greetings and Salutations: Upon arrival from the hospital, greet the pet as you normally would. Don’t put the pet outside or locked in another room. This will just foster feelings of rejection. The goal here is positive inclusiveness!
TLC: Set time aside to give your pet attention and the reassurance that he/she is still loved.
Like a human sibling, your pet may be excited about the new addition, curious and eager to help out with new activities. You may get ignored altogether. In some cases, your pet may resort to passive or in-your-face aggressiveness. You just never know so be prepared to help your pet cope. If find yourself in an unmanageable situation, ask a friend/family member to temporarily take your pet. Your pet will sense stress and react to it. One you’ve calmed down and established a routine, welcome your pet back in. It typically takes pets, cats and dogs alike, 6-12 weeks to adapt.
Finally, enjoy! Get some pictures of the ‘kids’. You’ll cherish the memories. If you have any stories or strategies to share, let us know in the comments!
Disclaimer: I’m not an animal expert so please use your vet as a primary resource. Click here for more tips http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/pets_babies.html.