Have you given thought to how Fido is going to do with your new little angel? Sometimes dogs or cats (or other animals) have become so much a part of our lives that they’ve been our “babies” for years before a human child comes along. While pets can be an amazing experience for children to grow up with, they can sometimes be unpredictable or frustrating when faced with new experiences themselves. We’ve all seen Lady and the Tramp, right? Nobody wants to make their “first baby” feel like they’ve been pushed out but we also realize that a small person needs to be the priority. So… what can we do to make the transition smooth?
First of all, we don’t want to wait until baby arrives to start smoothing the waters. Start when you know that life will be changing. A good place to start is to make sure that your dog is obedient and well-trained. He should respond well to voice commands and be trustworthy within the home. If that’s not the case, you may want to consider some obedience classes or time spent reading up and training. When you feel that your pet is generally well-behaved, it’s time to start thinking about the personality of the animal. If you have a pet that is very bound by schedule and structure then you need to consider that you may not be able to maintain what they are used to when baby arrives. Life with a newborn is rarely dependable nor will you be able to focus on the animal’s schedule. There will be sleepless nights and times when your focus gets shifted just as you were prepared to feed Kitty. During pregnancy (or waiting for adoption placement) is a good time to start varying your pet’s schedule and ease him into more flexibility. If you’re feeling exhausted and morning-sick anyway, this will be easy. Somehow a can of cat food at 7 a.m. may just not be top on your list! Try feeding anywhere within a few hours’ variance to push the limits a bit. Or maybe walk Puppy an hour earlier, have someone different walk him, or make his favorite toy disappear for a day and then reappear. Changing up your pet’s expectations or schedule now will ease the anxiety that many pets feel when their lives are thrown for a loop all at once.
Consider the rules in your house. Does your pup currently have all-access pass to the home? Are you going to want him out of the nursery when baby arrives? Or not sleeping in your room anymore? Or off the couch? Maybe you’ve let jumping on people slide until now but know it can’t continue when your new little squish arrives. These are all behaviors that you can work on changing now. If you do it now, Rover won’t associate losing his spot in bed with the new baby being to blame. He’ll be settled into his soft private bed well before it’s an issue. Do you have a vocal pet? A barking dog can be a good deterrent for robbers but not so impressive when you finally get Junior down for a nap only to have him woken five minutes later because the mail lady arrived or there is a kid on a bike outside. Start teaching Pup to quiet down now. Here’s a link to an ASPCA article on how to make it stop: ASPCA on Barking
This will give you some ideas to start toward while you are navigating pregnancy. In Part 2, we’ll discuss what to do after baby comes. Stay tuned!