9 tips to help prepare pets for your newborn’s arrival
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When a baby comes home for the first time, everything feels like it has been turned on its head.
This is also true for your pets who are trying to cope with jealousy, confusion and the distress of a crying little human. To ease the transition for your pet and family, try out these helpful tips.
Set up the nursery early
Try setting up the nursery, as well as all the other additions that come with having a baby, like a rocking chair or play swing, a few months in advance to allow your pet to explore these new items and transformed spaces. Thereafter, make it known that those particular spaces or areas are out of bounds. Close the door of the nursery and put up a baby gate that will allow them to look inside from a safe distance so they can be curious without creating any accidental chaos.
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Shots and de-worming
Dogs and cats are loving creatures who explore with their mouths and noses, showing their affection with lots of playful licks and sniffs. However, they are also carriers of diseases, like ringworm and other parasites. Before the baby comes home, it’s important to ensure your pet is healthy and fully covered for parasites, with all of their shots being up to date if it is a new pup or kitten. That way, if your pooch picks up one of their toys with their mouth without your knowledge, you don’t have to be too worried. Of course, it is always a good idea to wash baby’s toys and sanitise surfaces with baby-safe products just to be careful.
A new schedule
Your pet is probably used to being the centre of attention. From being allowed to hop into bed for morning snuggles to planning your day around their needs, unfortunately, a lot of this will change when a new baby arrives. To avoid jealousy, and get your pet into the groove of things, start adjusting their schedule early on.
For example, if they’re used to morning cuddle time, start teaching them that they are only allowed in bed when invited. If they have morning walks, get them used to have walks in the afternoon or evening instead. You’ll also have to enforce that they will not be able to demand your attention at all times. To achieve this, only respond to your dog's whining on a case-by-case basis. It's advisable to disregard it if you're certain there's no true need. When you detect a moment of stillness and calm, reward their behaviour with praise, a treat, or something similar.
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Model new behaviours
When the baby arrives, you’ll be all consumed with the little bundle of joy. Instead of cooing over your dog or cat, you’ll be rocking the baby, feeding them and carrying them around before lulling them to sleep. For your pet, this change can be strange to adjust to, and they’ll certainly be curious and maybe even a little jealous of all the attention being directed away from them.
Modelling new behaviour around the home can help your pet adjust. Carry a bundle of blankets or even a doll around the home before the baby actually arrives. This will help get your pet used to seeing these behaviours, and they won’t be caught off guard. Reward them for not jumping up on you when carrying the blanket or doll, and eventually, they’ll get the idea. When it comes to walking your dog, set up their pram early on and have them get used to going on walks with it.
Cooing, crying, screaming and giggling - babies make a lot of unusual sounds your pet may have never heard before. Dogs and cats can become overwhelmed, frustrated, and agitated by this. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available for helping your pet become accustomed to baby noises long before their due date. Simply play the recordings that you can search for on YouTube or a specific website off of your phone and place it in the baby carrier/car seat, their cot or in the pram when you take your pet on walks.
To assist your animals to form positive associations, combine this with rewards or treats. Your dog or cat will embrace the noise rather than be terrified or upset by it.
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Baby shampoo, creams, lotions, powder and more can be used in the home before the baby arrives, helping your dog or cat familiarise themselves with these new scents. Additionally, many sources recommend introducing your baby’s scent to your dog or cat by bringing home a used onesie or blanket ahead of their actual arrival.
In an interview with Parents, co-founder of PetFinder.com, an online pet-search site, Betty Saul said: “By the time Baby comes home, your pooch will recognise and accept the strange new scent. There's quite a difference between the initial sniff-down and a friendly recheck.”
Plan a calm meeting
Licks and leaps of love are bound to come mom’s way when she arrives home from the hospital. To ensure the baby doesn’t get lost in the middle of this reunion, allow mom to enter the home first and let dad or a relative follow with the baby once things have calmed down.
If you have a small pup or a cat, have somebody carry them during their introduction. Otherwise, have them on a leash held by someone who is familiar with your pet dog and understands their strength.Then sit down and allow your pet to be curious and sniff them a little without getting too close. Reward their good behaviour with treats.
Teach your baby to be gentle
Babies also need to learn how to respect their pets as they grow older and mature enough to understand this concept. Teach them where it is safe to pet your animals (some have sensitivities), how to pet them softly and not to hurt them (no kicking, tucking or gripping too tightly). Also, help them to understand boundaries: for instance, don’t grab toys or food from the pets mouth, help them to understand when a dog or cat is eating they need their space.
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Sometimes reinforcing all these new rules and routines can be a nightmare while expecting a baby. If you aren’t up to training and feel like you have your hands full, send your pet for training lessons and ask specifically about a class they can attend to help prep them for when baby comes home. This alleviates some of the pressure for new parents-to-be and will give you peace of mind knowing your pet was formally trained for the situation.
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