A new baby and your pet
Congratulations to our own Dr Ash who recently welcomed a new baby boy into his family. The photo above is of Ash with his son Krishav, baby Aashov and his dog Lucy. This is what we call active supervision of a dog with a baby. Dr Ash is in contact with the baby and Lucy while providing some space between them. He can monitor Lucy’s reactions to Aashov and also prevent the baby from doing anything frightening or painful to Lucy like grabbing one of her cute fluffy ears.
If you’re expecting a new baby you need to prepare your pet for the changes about to happen around the house.
When a new baby arrives, everybody’s life will change radically, indluding the pets’. A new baby is different to older children; sounds different, smells different, looks different and requires a lot of the parents’ time and attention. Some of that may be time or attention that was previously devoted to the animals. People and pets’ emotions may be fragile due to anxiety, arousal and changed sleep patterns. Household routines will be quite different to previously established routines. Preparation
- Establish a new realistic routine with your pet(s) as soon as you can so it doesn’t change suddenly once baby arrives.
- Train your pet to perform some behaviours your would like them to do at critical times such as feeding, changing or settling the baby.
- You could teach them to lie on a mat, go to their crate or sit quietly while you pretend to feed a baby for example. Get these behaviours really fluent (close to 100% reliable). Provide a safe place for them to get away from children. Cats usually prefer high hiding places. Dogs may use a crate or quiet part of the house as their safe-haven. Never disturb them there.
- Alter your dog-walking times or duration to fit the new expected routine and add a pram while you walk sometimes.
- If necessary start some alternative forms of exercise for your dog such as games of fetch or seek or “nose-work”. The more active your dog usually is, the more you will need to find for them to do once baby arrives.
- Desensitise and condition your pet to all the new things to do with baby such as noises (the baby and their toys), smells, appearance of you holding something in your arms. You can use other babies, dolls and once the baby comes bring home some of their blankets, nappies etc. from the hospital. There is an app listed below with baby sounds on it.
- Get a thorough vet check well before baby is due. Make sure your pet is up to date with vaccinations and parasite control. Ensure they have so health problems or painful conditions such as arthritis. After baby arrives it’s harder to get them to the vet for a little while.
- If your dog or cat has previously displayed any signs of anxiety, especially around children or babies, I recommend a behaviour consultation with Dr Andrew or myself.
After baby arrives
- Safety is paramount. Actively supervise all interactions between pets and baby (as well as all children). Never leave them alone together. Active supervision means hands on and 100% concentration. When first arriving home from hospital, greet the dog without baby in arms to prevent jumping up.
- Prevent the dog from jumping up on the baby by using a barrier such as a crate or baby gate if necessary. Don’t use the baby gate to separate the dog from mobile children as the bars are too far apart to prevent a bite. Don’t let cats have access to the baby’s cot.
- Find some time each day to give your dog some one-on-one time and exercise; physical as well as mental.
- If your dog is barking excessively, growling, snapping, lunging, jumping up or showing other signs of anxiety such as hiding, shaking, freezing, salivating or any other behaviour change, seek veterinary help as soon as possible.
- Never verbally or physically punish the dog for interacting with baby or baby’s things; toys, blankets etc.
- Training; For some extra help I recommend Delta-qualified trainers. Ask us if you need help finding someone.
- For behaviour problems including anxiety, see a veterinarian with further qualifications in Veterinary Behaviour such as Dr Andrew or myself.
- Book+CD “Tell your dog you’re pregnant” or “Tell your cat you’re pregnant” by Lewis Kirkham available online as an E-book or print form(with a CD of baby sounds inside) for $20-$40.00.
- Download the App “Sound proof puppy training” for information and sounds to use during desensitisation and conditioning. $5.99
- Website “stopthe77.com” for some great advice and videos on child-safety around dogs.