For many couples a pet can be the first stage in building a family. Learning to look after a furry friend is a natural way to practice parenting and caring, but it means that if your expecting a child, the two are going to have to meet at some point!
Thankfully there are a number of ways that you can get your pet used to your little one’s presence, and make all these changes as smooth as possible for everyone!
- Stop your pets bad habits –
Pet behaviour that might be fine normally can become more annoying or even dangerous when you are pregnant or have a newborn. If you have a dog prone to jumping up at you, for instance, it is important to make sure that this behaviour is corrected as soon as possible. The last thing you want is an over excited pooch leaping up and knocking you or your baby after all! Taking your dog to a trainer can be an excellent way of making sure they are well behaved once your little one arrives.
- Get your pets used to new things –
Having a baby comes with a huge amount of new things, for parents and pets. Stollers, cots, baskets, beds, bouncers, toys… all these new things can take time for your pet to get used to. It is best to make sure then that your pet has had time to become used to all of these things before your infant arrives. This will mean they will be able to accept the baby as a part of the household far easier, as they will smell and look familiar. Another useful strategy can be getting your pet used to baby noises by playing some over a speaker, quietly at first and then a little louder. That way when baby arrives they will be less likely to become startled or annoyed by cries, screams or laughing.
- Make sure your pet is getting plenty of exercise! –
While it is always important to make sure that your pet is getting the exercise they need, this is even more essential when you have had a baby. A bored, overly energetic pet is more likely to turn to destructive or potentially dangerous behaviours. For new mums, having to juggle a bored pet and a needy baby can be a struggle, so make sure you have the number of a friend or company that can help you out with potential pet needs, from feedings to walks. Remember too that you should NEVER put a pet’s lead on the pram or stroller. This can be very dangerous for your baby should your pet pull over the stroller.
- Make sure you give your baby and pet their own spaces –
Babies and toddlers can love pets, sometimes too much. For a little one, a pet can be something soft, warm and fun to play with, but for the animal this can sometimes be a painful and annoying experience. For a some animals, if this behaviour goes on to long or becomes too uncomfortable, this can create unnecessary stress for them. So make sure they have a basket, cage or room to retreat to if your little one is pestering them.
But also it is important, especially when you baby is learning to crawl and walk, that they have space from your pet. Many can easily knock over an unsteady child, and animals also love to play with toys, and may steal them from your baby or vice versa. For hygiene, it is important to make a separation between toys.
If each has their own space then, so that your pet can get away from a baby that has become annoying, and your baby can have their own space to play, it makes for a happier family.
- Never leave your baby and pet alone together. EVER.
While almost all pets and baby’s will learn to happily get along together, it’s essential to remember that a child is very fragile, and even a gentle and good natured pet can still be dangerous to them if left unsupervised. All new parents know they should never leave a baby alone, but this is doubly important when a pet is in the house. You should therefore never leave your baby alone with an animal, even the family pet.
Hopefully though if you follow this guide then everyone will get along fine, and will be one big happy family, and before too long your pet will love your little one as much as you do!