Tips to keep your family and pets safe and happy when a new addition arrives.

Welcoming a new addition to the family is an exciting time. An infant in the home means new sights, sounds and smells for parents and pets alike. With the average American family having two children, and 30–40 percent of Americans owning either a dog or cat, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, introducing a fur baby to a new baby is a situation many people encounter. The normal anxieties of parenting can be compounded when there’s a pet in the house; your dog or cat might not cooperate with the new addition now occupying your attention.

Preparation

Before your new bundle of joy arrives, prepare your pet for this change by modifying your daily behaviors.

New sights and smells

If you know someone with a baby or young child, have them visit your home ahead of your baby’s arrival. This will expose your pet to the new sights, sounds and smells of infants. Make sure all interactions are supervised to gauge your pet’s behavior. It might also help to rub baby lotions and oils on your own skin to familiarize your animal with new scents.

Separation

The Humane Society recommends accustoming your pet to spending less time with you. Naturally, your attention will be on your infant, and your pet is likely to feel isolated. To help alleviate this separation anxiety, decrease the amount of time you spend with your pet before your baby arrives. It can also help to have other family members further develop their relationships with your pet.

New interactions                                                                  

Once the baby arrives, it is important to create a positive environment for your pet around your child. The ASPCA recommends teaching your dog or cat that when the baby is present, your animal will be rewarded either with treats, petting or playing. When you feed the baby, feed your dog or cat. When you walk your dog, try to take the baby along. Your pet should associate good things happening with the baby’s presence.

Basic obedience is important during this time, too. There will be moments you want space away from your animals. If you don’t want them in the nursery, implement this boundary early and often. If you’re a dog owner, practice commands that will teach your dog distance and space. Look into obedience training ahead of the baby’s birth. Teach your pet to sit, stay or even kennel.

If you are concerned about how your pet will interact with your new child, consult your pediatrician or veterinarian. Introducing a new family member changes the dynamic of the household, but forward thinking can help you, your baby and your pet stay calmer during this time of change.

Never leave a pet unattended with a baby

Aaryn Cahill is content manager for Healthy Living Made Simple.