Even before I decided to enrol in an online program to become a certified dog trainer, I saw how difficult it was for parents-to-be that owned pets to acclimate their furry friends to their brand new bundle of joy.
For example, I vividly remember one of my neighbors being SO worried and stressed out a few weeks before her due date because she had heard so many horror stories about dogs being jealous of their new human siblings. She was petrified that her dog was going to feel resentful of her daughter and lash out in some way.
Thankfully, her dog had a pretty mellow temperament and while I don’t recall if he had ever been specifically socialized to children, he grew to love his new sibling and they were best friends up until the day that he crossed the Rainbow Bridge.
My neighbor was very lucky; some parents that are also pet owners make huge mistakes that wind up causing everyone a ton of stress. Whether it is not socializing their cat or dog with children when they’re young, or waiting until the last minute to hire a dog walker and then being frustrated because they’re not a good fit, it’s so much better to plan ahead and take precautions so that your child will grow up having a healthy relationship with their beloved furry friend.
20 Not Brushing Up On Basic Manners
One good rule of thumb is to always set a pet up for success by teaching it good manners from the moment they come home, especially if someone is planning on becoming a parent one day in the future.
Ideally, all pets should be taught good manners and said training should be consistent throughout their lives. That’s not always the case; I’ve seen plenty of posts online from parents that slacked off on the basic manners front.
The ASPCA recommends that new parents brush up on their dog and cats’ obedience training so that their impulse control will improve and they’ll have an easier time managing the household once the new baby comes home.
19 Switching The Routine Up Too Fast
Since some dogs (and cats) can be jealous of their new human sibling when the proud parents bring them home, the American Kennel Club advises that owners who are preparing to welcome a new bundle of joy make slow, gradual changes to their daily routine.
That way, their poor furry pal won’t be confused when their world turns upside-down and won’t feel overwhelmed with the changes, or by the arrival of their human sibling. Slow and steady wins the race, after all!
18 Furry Friends Can't Investigate The New Digs Before Hand
According to Vet West, one way to help prepare pets for the arrival of a new baby is to allow them to explore the future sleeping and changing areas. Some owners don’t do this ahead of time, and it always winds up with a confused and nosy pet that is just ITCHING to know what’s so fascinating about this room that their owner keeps disappearing into.
By allowing your dog or cat to investigate the new digs beforehand, the sleeping and changing areas will lose their air of mystery and your pet will be like, “Meh, there’s nothing exciting about that room” by the time the baby comes home.
17 All The Attention For The Pet Goes Bye-Bye
It’s understandable that new parents are excited about lavishing attention on their newborn, but it can be distressing for pets that are used to being the center of the universe for their owners to suddenly stop getting all the pets and scritches.
The American Kennel Club recommends that parents-to-be slowly stop lavishing attention on their pets two or three weeks before their baby is due to arrive so it is not a total shock to their furry friends that they’re no longer the apple of their owners’ eyes.
16 Waiting Until The Last Minute To Hire A Force-Free Trainer
I’m a dog trainer in training, and I see SO many people that wait until the last minute to hire a force-free trainer to nip potential problems in the bud; it’s maddening.
For the love of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, don't wait until AFTER your baby comes home to hire a trainer to get your dog used to your child—listen to Victoria Stilwell and do it before. An ounce of prevention is going to save you A LOT of time, money and tears in the long run.
15 Not Playing Recordings Of Baby Sounds Before The Little One Comes Home
Victoria Stilwell recommends performing a technique called classical conditioning. You know how Pavlov got his dogs to drool on command when he rang a bell because he made them associate the sound with food? That’s exactly what new parents should do.
Under the guidance of a force-free trainer, play pre-recorded sounds of babies at a low volume and heavily reward your dogs (or cats) with yummy, high-value treats for being calm around the noises. They’ll soon figure out that crying babies equal delicious treats, and won’t get distressed when their human sibling finds their voice.
14 Ex-Pens Are Your Best Friends Right Now
According to the ASPCA, ex-pens, baby gates, and crates are all fantastic management tools to help new parents keep their newborn and their beloved pets separated from one another at first.
Forcing a pet to interact with a baby isn’t a good idea and is going to be stressful for both humans and animals, so it’s a good idea to start sectioning off the house or apartment a few weeks before the due date so that your pets can have their own space and aren’t underfoot when the baby arrives.
13 Pets Need Their Own Space Too, Dang It
Being a new mother is overwhelming and just like parents need their quiet time to decompress, so do pets.
The American Kennel Club highly recommends having a “safety zone” where dogs and cats can go and chill out in when being around a new baby becomes too much. This can be a “catio,” a crate, a bed, or an area gated off with an ex-pen or baby gate—just make sure that no children (newborns or otherwise) are allowed to intrude on your pet’s “safety zone.”
12 Rushing Introductions
It is so tempting for new parents to want to introduce their baby to their beloved pets ASAP but for the love of Dog, listen to Victoria Stilwell and TAKE IT SLOW. Basically forcing the dog or cat to interact with a newborn they’ve never met is a recipe for disaster.
Keep introductions slow at first, and make sure that the pet’s body language is calm and relaxed. Don’t punish growling or hissing; and if you’re not sure of their behavior, then call in a force-free trainer with experience to asses the situation.
11 Off-Leash Dogs And Babies Is A Bad Mix
Victoria Stilwell highly recommends not only performing slow introductions when introducing pets to a new baby but also recommends making sure that dogs are on leash too. This way, owners will have more control over their pet and will be able to stop their pooch from accidentally jumping on the little one. After all, no one wants the baby or the dog to get hurt!
If there are multiple dogs in a household, Stilwell also recommends leashing each dog and introducing them to the new baby one at a time too.
10 Not Utilizing Pavlov
In terms of getting a pet used to a newborn baby, Pavlov and his idea of classical conditioning is going to be your new best friend.
Aside from feeding high-value treats to a pet while playing pre-recorded sounds of a crying baby, Victoria Stilwell urges parents to get a realistic doll that moves and acts like a new baby and rewarding the dog or cat with high value treats when they stay calm around the doll.
You can also recruit an experienced force-free trainer to help you set up sessions where they see children walking by schoolyards or in parks and get showered with high value treats too.
9 Scolding Your Pooch Or Feline When They Jump On The Baby
Being a parent is stressful, and it is tempting to want to scold your dog or cat whenever they get curious about their new human sibling and jump up on them.
The American Kennel Club notes that you should always try your best to NOT let your irritation get the better of you and start scolding your pet, since you do not want them to start making any negative associations towards your baby, lest behavioral issues such as resource guarding or reactivity start cropping up months or even years down the line.
8 Keeping Dog And Human Toys Separate
I know that most parents are stressed-out and totally scatter-brained when they first bring a baby home, but it is SO important to implement management techniques in terms of keeping both the pets’ toys and the baby’s toys separate.
The American Kennel Club urges new parents to keep the pets and the baby’s toys in separate rooms that neither one has access to them unsupervised. This is not only for health reasons but also so that you don’t have to keep scolding your pet (thereby creating a negative association with baby) for trying to play with the human toys. Plus, it’ll make clean-up easier too.
7 Ignoring Your Furry Child
Parenting is stressful and caring for a newborn can turn the household upside down, but the Humane Society warns owners to not ignore their dog or cat the minute a new baby arrives so that their beloved pets don’t get stressed out or depressed.
If your dog or cat is attached to the mom-to-be, make sure that another family member bonds with the pet long before the baby is due so that they’ll have someone familiar to lavish them with attention while the new momma takes care of her little one.
6 Socialization, Socialization, Socialization
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of a cure and Victoria Stilwell notes that performing proper socialization with your cat or dog from the minute you first bring them home is going to be a lifesaver in the future.
For folks that bring home a young puppy, hiring a force-free trainer and socializing them with babies, other dogs, cats, etc. is going to make a HUGE difference in the future when the newborn comes home and you’re trying to introduce the two.
5 Schedule Some Pet/Owner Solo Time
Vet West highly recommends that new parents take the time to schedule some one-on-one time with their pet after the baby is born so that they don’t feel neglected. Being a parent is time-consuming and stressful, but there are plenty of fun low-stress activities you can do with your pet that will work their brain and give them plenty of exercise.
For example, you can work on teaching them fun tricks when the baby is sleeping or you can purchase a flirt pole or a similar kind of interactive toy and wear them out by playing with it for a half hour.
4 Waiting Until Baby Comes Home To Hire A Pet Sitter
According to the ASPCA, it is better for new parents to start looking into hiring a dog walker, pet sitter or doggie daycare if they have a dog-social and tolerant pooch a few months before the baby is born.
That way, owners can take their time to interview pet sitters and find someone that is the right fit for them and their pet rather than being stressed and rushing a decision when they’re trying to acclimate to their new lifestyle.
3 Crate Training Is Imperative
The American Kennel Club urges new parents to crate train their dogs (if they haven’t done so already) a few months before their bundle of joy is due to arrive.
Ideally, puppies should all be crate trained but I know plenty of people that never bothered to do so. For example, my family never even attempted it with our older dog Esme. It’s such a good skill for dogs of all ages to have because not only does it make housebreaking a puppy a breeze, it also gives dogs a place to decompress when they need a break. Since babies can be overwhelming, a dog that’s crate trained will make life a lot easier.
2 Not Planning In Advance For Who Will Watch Your Pet When You're At The Hospital
The Humane Society recommends that pet owners make a plan a few months in advance as to who will take care of their furry pal when they are at the hospital.
It doesn’t matter if you want a trusted friend or relative to watch your pet or if you’re thinking of either hiring a pet sitter or boarding your pet for a few days; it’s better to make plans in advance rather than wait until a week or so before the due date.
1 Relaxation Protocols Are The Best
Aside from teaching your pet to stay off of the furniture or beds, Victoria Stilwell urges dog owners to teach their pooch to be calm around babies. Not only does this include counterconditioning and desensitization to the sights, sounds, and smells of little ones, but you can also utilize Dr. Karen Overall’s relaxation protocol to teach your doggo to chill out on their mat while you take care of your new bundle of joy.
It’s important to start working on the relaxation protocol four to six months before the due date, so that you’ll have plenty of time to call in a force-free dog trainer just in case you need advice or another pair of eyes to guide you.