For those who know me personally and for those who solely follow my instagram page, you may have realized by now that I am a HUGE animal lover. And that is putting it lightly. Seriously though, I’d probably own a zoo by now if it weren’t for my husband to keep me in check. Although, with two dogs and a cat, a zoo is sometimes what my house feels like. Between making sure my dogs don’t eat anything important (or poisonous) to then making sure my cat doesn’t scratch up our brand new leather couches or trip me when carrying the laundry downstairs, I sometimes have my work cut out for me. Now add in a baby and you can imagine that life is now “officially” pure chaos (as if it wasn’t before hand?). However, despite what you might be thinking, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Although I like to think my husband and I are on the “semi-normal” side of pet ownership we do fall into the spectrum of those who like to think of our animals as our “babies.” So with that said, when it came to finding out we were expecting, we wanted to make sure that our current babies would accept the NEW baby. Now, let me state that I am NO pet expert. These following tips are things that we researched, tried and found worked for us. As many of you know, every dog/cat is different has different temperaments so please use your own discretion when it comes to introducing your newest bundle of joy to your own pet-babies.
- Start early and often. When my husband and I first learned that we were expecting, we immediately knew that we’d need to start priming our animals for the change coming (which I will expand on more below). Even though 9 months seems like a long time, I promise you that it will fly by before you know it. Take advantage of the energy you will have (although I know the first trimester can be rough) and get a heads start on working with your pets.
- Break any bad habits/behaviors. While I will say that my dogs are pretty well behaved, they do have a few quirks that needed some addressing. For example, our one dog Ben has OCD. Its harmless and at times can be hysterical. However, this OCD can unfortunately can give him pretty terrible anxiety. While he loves people and just wants to give you kisses, his anxiousness causes him to get a little carried away. He will pull on the leash, bark like a psycho path and play bite (which is cute if you are a puppy but he is almost 3 years old). Our other dog, Lucy, isn’t without fault either. She tends to be a little nervous and quick to bark at the slightest sound. Oh and if I bring out the vacuum cleaner…forget it! If you have similar stories, these few things may not be big deals now. However, once a baby comes you will not be so thrilled. Especially if your dog goes barking up a storm during nap time. Sit down and identify those few things that need to be worked on and buckle down on them PRONTO. Trust me, your baby, yourself and your dog will thank you because no one wants an unhappy mama!
- Get them used to the unusual. Baby cries, baby poop, strollers, car seats, toys, etc. It may seem like nothing to us but to our pets, these things can be pretty scary. Like above, start early in introducing these things. Try playing baby sounds and cries a few times a day (you can find sound clips on youtube) or push your stroller around the house a bit. Better yet, try bringing your dog/s on a walk with the stroller. You may look like a weirdo for pushing an empty stroller but thats okay!
- Introducing Scent. The moment your little bundle of joy arrives, take either the receiving blanket they were in or the hat they wear and have either your husband or loved one bring it to your dogs/cat to smell. Just like how you let a dog smell your hand when you first meet, this is a great way to introduce your babe early before bringing them home. While I can’t say for certain that this was 100% effective, it can’t hurt to try and may make that first meet and greet a little less crazy.
- Mommy greets them first. If your dogs are anything like mine, you will be greatly missed when you are at the hospital. When it comes time to return home, make sure to remember that your “first” babies will be excited to see you. Try going in first while leaving your husband in the car with your newest bundle. This will allow you to get the initial excitement out of the way, calm them down and give them their individual attention that they will be craving.
- Slow and Controlled First Introduction. Just like noted above, you will want to make sure the first meet and greet is done in a controlled and calm fashion. After greeting your pets first, I’d recommend having your husband bring in the baby and have him hold the car seat just low enough for your pets to sniff around. Once that general excitement is over with, I would then move on to the next step of you holding the baby in your arms while they say hello. Keep doing this until your newborn seems so new to them.
- Praise. This is an obvious tip for most pet owners but “good boy/girl” and a cookie goes a long way. You want your dog/cat to associate positivity with the baby. By practicing constant praise when they are close to your babe, you can be sure to leave stress out of the situation and avoid any negative feelings/associations forming. Your pets will get the idea that if they act good by baby then they will be rewarded.
- Remember that they are animals. Now while I like to think of my dogs as my babies, I do realize that my new “human” baby takes precedence. Additionally, while I like to think of my pets as sweet little harmless animals, I do realize that at the end of the day, they are still just that…animals. Now do I think they would purposely ever do anything malicious? Never. However, they would do things accidentally (for example, Ben has pretty much broken my nose multiple times with his head) and they would also do things to defend themselves. While at first your newborn won’t be doing much of anything, other than sleeping, at some point they will be on the move. They will grab, poke and hit and despite what we think, an animal will not always understand. They may want to defend themselves and in turn, hurt your little babe in doing so. To avoid such disaster, always play it safe by never leaving your little one unattended when with your pets and stay realistic!
- Train Them by Training Yourself. As mentioned in the first tip, my husband and I wasted no time in making sure our dogs were all going to be ready for the new addition. Although they were fairly well behaved to begin with, we still knew that they had a few behaviors that needed to be worked on. So to help take care of that, we elicited the help of a dog trainer. Now if you haven’t ever used a trainer before, the thing you need to know is that they are actually not really there for your dog. Instead, they are there to train YOU. Why, well because you lead the way for your pooch. Of course, I don’t think you necessarily need to hire a professional but it did help tremendously in showing us the little things we weren’t doing correctly and were having trouble fixing. It was a bit pricey but at the end of the day, it was very much worth it to make sure we were all happy.
- Solo Time. Bringing home baby is a BIG adjustment for EVERYONE, not just mom and dad. To help your fur babies along and help them not feel jealous, make sure you give them good old quality time alone. Bring them on walks, go in the back yard and throw a ball, or just cuddle with them on the couch. Things will be different but you will want to show your little guys that it is a “good” different.