If you have pets at home, you might be worried about how your furry friends will interact with your newborn baby when you introduce them for the first time. Dogs are often energetic and curious to meet new people, but dogs and cats do not understand a baby is fragile and can’t play with them the way an adult can. If your dog(s) is accustomed to being the center of attention, it is possible they will get jealous and misbehave to grab your attention. Preparing your pets for a baby is an important step to ensure safety for everyone at home.
A few ways you can prepare your pets include:
- Make gradual changes to your dog’s routines – for example where they sleep, when you go for a walk, etc., to avoid sudden changes that they will associate with the baby
- Teach/reinforce basic obedience commands if they don’t know any or tend to ignore them
- Acclimate your dog to baby smells like lotion, powder – once the baby is born have someone take a blanket or onesie of the baby’s to the dog at home so they become familiar with their scent
- Designate a space for the dog that is only for them – a bed, gated room, crate, etc – the availability of this “safe space” will help the dog get away when they are overwhelmed
- After a few days, if your dog is interested in meeting the baby up close allow your dog to sniff the baby while being controlled on a leash, reward them for good behavior – if your dog is not interested do not force a relationship
The benefits of children growing up with pets are endless. Beside bringing companionship and joy, children who grow up with pets are less likely to have allergies and asthma. Having a pet also teaches responsibility, compassion and empathy. Dogs can help children feel secure and help ease anxiety. In addition, dogs can help children develop a positive self-image and become better at building relationships with others. Children with autism or other learning difficulties can build a connection to their dog, which can help them with their social interactions with people and can help them regulate stress.
Studies have also found that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression, will have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and an increase in serotonin levels which help us be calm and relax.
If you don’t have a dog but are thinking about getting one, adopt from your local animal shelter. If you have a newborn to 6-year-old it is best to not adopt a puppy as puppies are a handful and will take a lot of time to train and care for. Adopt a dog that is over 2 years old to ensure they are out of the puppy phase.