Pets love routines and predictability so it's no surprise that preparations must be made when it's time to bring home baby. The following tips can help smooth the transition as you introduce your "first baby" to your second.
- Behavioral basics. If your pet doesn't have the behavioral basics such as following "sit" and "stay" commands down, consider training classes or hiring an animal behavior specialist. This training will help your pet learn to, for example, wait for your OK before hopping up on your now-occupied-by-baby lap. Consult your vet, friends, parenting groups, pet sitter, dog walker or dog owner groups for recommendations. Or if you can't afford classes or a specialist, visit the local library or Amazon.com for books on pet training.
- The power of sound. Ready your pet for the new sounds a baby will bring to the house via CDs such as Preparing Fido.
- The power of smell. Familiarize your pet with baby scents by rubbing baby lotion or powder on the back of your hand. While you're in the hospital, have a family member bring home one of baby's used blankets so the pet can explore the new scent on his/her own terms.
- The power of touch. Ready your pet for your child's inevitable tactile curiosities. Create positive associations by pairing play, food, or affection with touch.
- New routines. Carry a doll around the house so your pet gets used to seeing you with something that size and shape. Talk to the doll and treat it like a baby.
- Old routines. Carve out time to be with your pet so he won't build a negative association with the arrival of the baby.
- Create a space your pet can retreat to. Ensure that your home has a comfortable, quiet space for your pet to retreat to when the house gets busy and noisy. If your pet tends to sleep in your bed and you plan on co-sleeping with your baby, get your pet used to sleeping at the foot of the bed, or in a pet bed right next to you on the floor.
- Precautions. Even if your pet typically has a mellow personality, never leave baby and pet alone together -- even for just a minute. And when other children visit your home, make contact limitations clear to parents.
- Other advance preparations. Consider having your pet spayed or neutered, as sterilized pets tend to be calmer. Make arrangements to have someone check in on your pet while you are at the hospital. Get some special treats to present to your pet for good behavior near baby.
It likely will take time for your pet to adjust to the loss of your undivided attention. Start way in advance of the birth to prepare your pet for the change and hopefully he will soon understand that he is still a beloved part of the family.
For more information: http://preparingfido.com/
Christine Koh is a music and brain scientist turned parent and writer about parenting issues for Care.com. She is also the editor of BostonMamas.com.