Home     Home and Family     Women's Health    

My Dog is my Baby too!

HV Veterinarian shares tips for introducing your baby to pets

Tips for introducing your baby to pets

Finding out that you are going to be a parent for the first time is an overwhelming, awe inspiring experience that can fill you with all kinds of emotions, from joy to downright fear. For example, if you're a pet owner, you might even feel a twinge of guilt.  Aren't I already a mom to Spot?  How am I going to create the perfect environment for my little bundle of joy without making Spot feel left out? How can I make my home a safe haven for those I love?

Well, you can make your home safe for everyone. You can keep your baby safe and be sure your furry friend is happy. Dr. David Greenberg, an Associate Veterinarian at Flannery Animal Hospital has offered ideas on how to prepare your pet ahead of time and things to look out for once your baby comes home.

Getting Ready For Baby

Chances are your nursery is prepared for your baby's arrival but, have you taken the time to set up baby gear that will be used in common areas throughout the house? According to Dr. Greenberg, "Setting up items like playpens and swings ahead of time allows pets to see them, smell them and overall adjust to what they may see as significant changes in their physical environment." If the living room window that will provide the perfect view for baby as she swings peacefully to sleep has also been Spot's favorite spot for an afternoon nap, you may want to have that swing in place well before baby comes home so no negative associations form between the baby and Spot's ruined nap time.

"My husband, Paul, and I made sure we had everything set up months before the arrival of our first child, Gavin, so our dogs, Augie and Chewy, could get familiar with the new set up of our house," said Jessica Pakenham, mother of two from Modena. "The best thing we did was to not make a big deal out of the dogs smelling, licking or jumping on the baby's stuff. We didn't want Augie and Chewy to feel like they were being punished because we were having a child."

Baby meet Spot; Spot this is baby
One of the major ways a pet gets to know others is by smell.  Dr. Greenberg suggests that parents bring home a used article of the newborn's clothing or a swaddling blanket to give to your pet while finishing your stay at the hospital.  That way when you cross the threshold of your home for the first time as a parent with baby in hand, your pet will recognize baby's scent and you are one step closer to becoming one big happy family. 

The first night away from the hospital, Jessica's husband, Paul, brought back the blanket that had swaddled their newborn all day. "Paul put the blanket in the dog bed so they could get used to the smell," said Pakenham. "The blanket really worked! The first night we brought Gavin home, Augie and Chewy sniffed him out and immediately fell in love with Gavin."

Also, keep in mind that although it is easy to let your emotions get the best of you and feel anxious about how your loved ones will get along, it is best to remain calm. "Stress on the part of parents will only serve to heighten stress on the part of your pet, who is very good at reading non-verbal signals from their human housemates," says Dr. Greenberg. Instead of whisking baby to an out of reach spot, let your pet take a whiff of their new house mate, their curiosity will be served and they will go about their own business while you begin adjusting to your new life.  Dr. Greenberg does however urge parents to continue adult supervision whenever babies are sharing the same home space with pets. Pakenham says the most important thing for parents to remember is to keep calm and make your newborn's homecoming as stress-free for the pets and family members as possible.

Keeping Spot Safe
Most parents spend a considerable amount of time and often, a considerable amount of money to ensure that their new arrival will be safe at home.  You should also take some time to consider what potential dangers having a new baby in the house could mean to your pet. "Probably the biggest new potential danger with the introduction of a new baby to a household is new objects that a pet could ingest, says Dr. Greenberg. "Small items like bottle nipples, pacifiers, baby socks or mittens, left within pets' reach could easily become an intestinal obstruction. 

I have seen these items removed surgically on more than one occasion."  What can you do to prevent that?  Be mindful of leaving these small objects, lying around.  Perhaps create a baby basket in rooms which you spend large amounts of time so that you can safely store these items safely out of Spot's reach.

READ MORE: Create a lasting friendship between your baby and dog

Growing up with Baby
As baby grows and begins to eat solid foods, it is important to think about how their messy table manners, while adorable, could have a negative effect on Spot. "Be aware of food items that may get dropped which could be toxic for your pet," says Dr. Greenberg. "Grapes, raisins, onions, chocolate and macadamia nuts can all spell major trouble for pets."

Laura Danella is the mother of three children and two dogs. She lives in Campbell Hall.