Baby onboard? Congratulations! With a new bundle of joy on the way, the "to do's" might seem endless, but if you've already got a four-legged "baby" at home, preparing for the transition is an important item to add to the list. Dogs and cats are particularly sensitive to any changes in routine and surroundings, including sights and smells, so you'll need to plan accordingly. Know what to expect from your pet when you're expecting - check out our tips before the big day arrives, and make sure keep your household remains a happy one!
Use the next nine months to address any obedience concerns, or even just to reaffirm the basics. What might have seemed like minor infractions before, such as jumping up on the couch or on guests, will be an even bigger no-no once the baby arrives. Best to nip any lagging behavioral issues in the bud now - and don't be surprised if you have to make a return visit to the trainer down the road as well.
Many local humane societies offer special workshops for pet owners who are now parents-to-be. These sessions provide in-depth guidance on the best methods and techniques for acclimating your pet to the impending change in the household, along with an intimate group setting where a trainer can address any specific concerns you might have, such as how to handle the transition with two pets. Visit the ASPCA to find a workshop in your area.
Take your dog or cat in for their annual exam before the baby arrives to make sure your pet is in tip-top shape and void of any dangerous parasites or bugs. While you're at it, stop at the groomer's as well and get pups a "pet-icure" to avoid any accidental scratches.
Set the Stage:
Be sure to set up the nursery well in advance of the little one's arrival to give your pet time to get used to the furniture. Bring in some of basic supplies as well, such as baby powder and diaper rash cream (kept out of reach, of course) - this will give your pet a head start on some of the new smells that the baby will bring. Consider introducing a baby sounds CD for brief periods throughout the day in the time leading up to your due date to give your pet an idea of the audio impact as well.
If you have friends or family members with infants, see how your pet reacts to their presence. Never allow your pet to show any signs of aggression, and heap on the positive reinforcement for any and all good behaviors around any "practice" babies. If you're short on friends with kids, try using a baby doll wrapped in the blanket you intend to bring home the real deal in - it may feel a bit odd at first, but it's a tried-and-true trick that works!