Tips on introducing your new baby to a family pet

In honor of Love Your Pet Day on February 20th, we’ve gathered some great tips for families ready to bring a baby home from the hospital and introducing them to a pet for the first time!

Let’s face it, for many families, the first child is often not human!  Many homes have a family pet well before they begin having kids. It takes a bit of planning, but it can be a wonderful experience introducing your new baby to a pet and enjoying life as a new pack!

“Welcoming a new child into the world can be the most amazing and scariest moment in one’s life,” says Dr. Joel English, D.V.M and partner of River Cove Animal Hospital based in Williston, Vermont. “Bringing a new baby home and introducing them to your pets doesn’t need to add to this anxiety…but it is important to start early to ease this transition.”

Dr. English shared this advice:

–       If it’s possible, every young pet should be socialized to children and babies.  By exposing kittens and puppies to children you are setting them up for a life free of fear around kids.  These interactions can be short but should always be observed and kept positive. If you have adopted an older dog or missed the opportunity to socialize them that is ok, older pets can still be afforded the opportunity to meet children prior to the arrival of the new family member. If you do not have ways for them to meet other children don’t worry, you can indirectly expose them to the sounds of children with cds, tv shows or movies. If you are especially concerned about how your dog will react to the new child you can even carry around a life-like doll that makes crying noises!

–       Once the baby arrives it’s a good idea to bring home blankets, hats or booties from the hospital so they can acclimate to the scent of the child before they arrive.

–       When the baby comes home it’s important not to force interaction with the pet. Often pets will prefer to keep their distance as they get their bearings. Allow them to become comfortable on their own terms.

–       Life with a child can be hectic, try to maintain your pet’s routine. The hardest part of bringing a new child home is being sure to continue to allow your pet appropriate stimulation through play and exercise — it is important to provide them with this outlet.

–       All interactions between the child and pet should be supervised. If you can’t supervise, make sure to confine your pet to a safe area, like a crate, in another room.  Remember that it is impossible to anticipate a pet’s reaction to the new child.  Pets can be unpredictable and safety of the baby is paramount.

It takes time and dedication to preparing your pet for a new family member.  Proper planning will certainly help your children and pets establish a wonderful relationship and build long-term furry friendships!

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