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What to Expect (From Your Pet) When You're Expecting: Introducing Your New Baby

Bringing your new baby home is a joyous occasion but it can be stressful for your pet. To make the transition as easy and safe as possible, HRA's Director of Behavior and Training, Alexandra Dilley, provided some tips to NBC Washington's Sheena Parveen.

1. Get the environment ready for inevitable future changes

When the new baby arrives, your pet's surroundings will inevitably change. Dilley suggests rearranging the furniture to its future placement before the baby gets there. Create a special space for your pet for when he or she will need to be alone. Install baby gates and train your dog to go to their crate or bed to get used to not being allowed in certain areas if you won’t want them there when the baby is born. This will prevent your dog from resenting the baby because of those changes.

2. Focus on positive interactions

For your first introduction, Dilley suggests bringing the baby in and setting him or her up on a table or other elevated area, while in their car seat. Then have your pet enter on a leash. Consistently feed your pet treats and speak to them in calm and encouraging tones as they sit or lay down nearby. 

Don’t rush the introduction or think that they have to be best friends when they first meet. Friendships take time to develop. Allow the dog to sniff calmly, but make sure your baby is out of the fray as your dog gets used to the little one.

3. Never leave your pet alone with your baby

All interactions after the initial introduction should involve rewarding your dog for calm behavior around the baby, while preventing the baby from encroaching on your dog’s personal space. Despite the myths, dogs are not nannies, and many young children have accidents when parents don’t take basic precautions. These safety measure include giving the dog enough personal space, not allowing the baby to tug on the dog, and removing the child if the dog starts to become uncomfortable. These situations can escalate but are easy to avoid by learning a bit about dog body language and setting up some baby gates and/or out-of-the-way safe spaces for your dog. This will keep everyone happy and safe.

Having a companion animal can be such a fulfilling part of any family’s life, but you need to be sure you properly introduce your pet to the new lifestyle and give your pet positive interactions with your child. Our Behavior & Training department has partnered with the international program, Family Paws Parent Education to offer low-cost, monthly seminars for new and expectant families with dogs. These seminars include Dogs & Storks and Dogs & Toddlers.

To learn more, visit our web page at humanerescuealliance.org/training.


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