Congratulations you just found out that a new baby is on the way. Your life will change and so will the life of your pet. Taking the months before the baby is born to prepare your pet goes a long way in making the transition easy for everyone.
Animal behaviorists suggest that you first find a special spot for your dog or cat that they can retreat to when the commotion of a new baby gets too much for them. Have this special spot stocked with water, food and their favourite blanket or toys. Try playing a recording of a baby crying a few weeks in advance of baby’s birth so that your pet gets used to this new sound.
Also, start training your new pet if you have decided they are no longer allowed on the furniture once baby arrives. Your pet may come to resent your baby if they associate their inability to lay on the furniture when the baby comes home. Training your pet months in advance of baby’s arrival will assure that there is no confusion. Training your pet starts with redirecting them when they jump on the furniture and offer a treat. You may need to retrain a bit when baby comes home. Setting up the baby’s furniture well in advance of baby’s arrival and training your pet to know that this new furniture is not for them will also help in the long run. Plan on bringing home a blanket that you used in the hospital so that your pet can smell it and get used to that new smell as well.
Getting your pet desensitized to little fingers poking and prodding them is also important before it starts. Start by gently touching your pet in these spots (i.e. face, ears, tail etc.). If you are having a problem working with your pet, have someone give your pet treats while you are doing the touching. These exercises should be done for short periods (2 to 5 minutes in length) about 5 times a day. It is also best to do these exercises during activities that your pet likes so that they also associate the touching with fun activities.
If your pet has a history of not reacting well to small children, get help from a professional trainer. These will help alleviate your stress in getting your pet desensitized and lower the stress level in your animal by doing the right thing and not making it worse! Professional trainers can help with simple suggestions that you might not even realize as a new parent. Making sure that your pet has some of the basic commands down (i.e. sit, down) also goes a long way in making him baby ready. Remember to never leave your pet and baby together unmonitored.
Stay patient with your pet. It may take a while for them to realize that they are no longer the ‘baby’ of the family. Keeping your pets involved in the process of welcoming the latest addition to your family will help in them accepting baby and caring for it. Expect a little jealousy since their role has now changed. So that your pet does not feel left out, remember to make alone time with them every day doing activities that they love.
Enjoy the months before your new baby arrives but do not forget about your first baby!