6 tips for introducing your baby to your pet

For many families, their first ‘baby’ is their pet – but it’s inevitable that things change when you welcome a human baby into the fold. It’s so important that your two ‘babies’ can live together peacefully, and a positive first introduction between them will go a long way to establishing a harmonious relationship.

Be prepared

Before your due date, make sure you have a plan for your pet to be taken care of while you’re in the hospital and for the first few days when you get home – that means someone to walk and feed them, and play with them so they don’t associate feeling neglected with the arrival of the baby.

Meet on neutral ground

The first meeting between your dog and your new baby is an important one. When you bring baby home from the hospital for the first time, greet your pet enthusiastically before introducing her to the baby. It’s best to try do the initial introduction on ‘neutral ground’, like outside the front door or in the driveway, as your dog is less likely to feel territorial here.

If the baby is in a car seat instead of in your arms, all the better since your pet won’t feel the need to compete for your attention. Make sure your dog is on a leash, as she may get excited to meet the baby and jump up or scratch and – if you can – wait for the dog to calm down before doing the introductions. When allowing your dog to have his first ‘sniff’ of the baby, it’s a good idea to let your dog approach the baby feet (not head-)first!

Maintain a routine

Going on walks with your baby and your dog will help your dog to accept the child as part of her new pack and provide a release of energy. But be aware that having you and your baby around may make your dog more territorial or protective around other dogs.

Breastfeeding tip

If your pet is used to spending a lot of time with you, or sitting in your lap often, adjusting to you nursing the baby may be difficult. Try to create a positive association between your pet and you breastfeeding by getting someone else to offer them a special treat while you’re nursing – this will reduce jealousy and help establish this time as something positive for all three of you.

Teach your baby to be gentle

From the get-go, you and any older siblings can model how to treat your pet kindly and with respect. Any time your baby touches your pet, tell her to be “gentle”. As she gets older, she can become more involved with caring for your pet or giving them treats, which offers an opportunity for bonding.

Feeding time

Animals tend to be territorial around food, so make sure your dog eats somewhere away from the baby and always prevent your child from crawling up to your dog while it’s eating.

While weaning, it may also be a good idea to keep your dog outside or in another room during mealtimes as constantly eating all the food that falls to the floor may become unhealthy for your dog – although useful to you because it minimises the cleanup!