As a soon-to-be mom, I’ve been submerged in baby and motherhood advice. Little was overlooked. I was told what breast pump to buy, how to make organic baby food, the environmental benefits of cloth vs. disposable diapers, and how ridiculously scary episiotomies are and why I should avoid them.
But while people have spent months briefing my husband and me on every little detail on how to prepare for our new arrival, hardly anyone spent any time focusing on the serious adjustment faced by our companion animal.
Most people leave pets out of their pre-parenting education. The results can be painful. Sometimes cats and dogs are abandoned. Worry (a barking dog waking baby) and old wives’ tales (a cat stealing a baby’s breath) both play roles.
But all it takes is a little patience and training to ensure that Fido or Fifi feel wanted and not on the sidewalk with a “Will work for kibble” sign around their necks.
Here are some tips on what to do before the baby arrives to ensure both your little guys, Fury and Fabulous, get along.
When a baby comes home from the hospital, strange new smells come with them. Begin by introducing your dog or cat to the new scents on your own skin. A little baby lotion or baby powder can help your pet think of the baby as an extension of you, not an interloper out to steal away your time and attention.
Bow wows and meows may wake your sleeping tot, but a baby’s night-time cries can also set your pet to howling. If you have a friend with a child, try recording their baby’s sounds and playing them back to your pet, stroking them if they seem nervous. Youtube has more baby sounds than you can shake a rattle at.
Strolling with prams and your four legged friends
Before the baby arrives, consider investing in a no-pull training harness and start a loose lead training program for your dog. If you plan to use a stroller or pram for daily walks, try practicing a few times before your delivery date to get used to juggling pram, diaper bag and pup at the same time. This will make for a smoother first day out for all. It can also teach proper walking rhythm based on the curbs, cobblestones and sandy grassy patches along your path.
Remember that there’s probably room in you diaper bag for a treat or two. This can remind your pet that he or she is still top dog even if it seems like all your focus is on the new four-wheeled doggie and the baby inside.
Baby toys and doggie toys
If your dog likes squeaky toys, he or she may find it impossible to distinguish its own toys from those of the baby.
If you haven’t already, teach your dog the “drop-it” command and be firm. This will work with toys and diapers, especially if your pet thinks anything used and taped-up resembles the shape of their favorite ball.
Try practicing a diaper change with a baby doll by spreading a blanket out on the floor and playing with the doll as you change its diaper with a small group of toys nearby.
You may also want to get your pet used to you walking around on all fours as this may be the first time you spend as much time scooting around close to the ground as they do. Above all remember to pay enough attention to your pet to make it feel secure and loved.
Lastly, be sure to visit your vet making sure your pets are healthy and their vaccinations are up to date. It’s also a good time to consider spaying or neutering your pet if you haven’t already done so.