Bringing Home Baby: How to Handle Your Pets
Sure, the royal baby is cute and all, but before His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge came along, someone else was king of the castle.
We're talking about Lupo, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's black cocker spaniel.
When it comes to new babies and pets, there can be some time needed for adjusting, both for parents and their animals.
How can you make the transition as smooth as possible? According to Victoria Wells, senior manager of behavior and training at the ASPCA, it's important for your animal to have a positive first experience with the newest member of the family.
Before Leaving the Hospital
It is helpful to allow a dog to adjust to the baby's new scent before the child even comes home. Bring a blanket that the baby has used home and allow your pet to sniff it. "Dogs rely on their sense of smell heavily to recognize other animals and humans," Wells explains. "Being exposed to the scent of a new baby will help them adjust to the baby even before he or she has arrived."
Bringing Baby Home
Wells suggests sending other members of the family into the home first, before bringing the baby inside. This will allow the animal to greet its family like usual. After a few minutes of greeting time, the dog should be leashed, Wells says.
"Even if your dog is extremely friendly to everyone and everything, babies are delicate," she explains. "A dog may try to jump up on the baby just because they are excited about their presence." Further, Wells explains that some dogs who have never met babies before may find an infant's cries or movements scary. The bottom line? "You don’t know how they are going to react when they meet a baby for the first time, so having them on a leash will give you some control," Wells says.
When it's time to actually introduce the baby, Wells recommends siting in a quiet room and having someone bring the leashed dog in. New parents may feel nervous about letting their dog get close to their infant and that's normal, Wells assures us. It's smart to talk to the animal in a cheerful voice so that you can convince him or her that meeting new friends is fun.
"Let your dog sniff the baby’s feet for a couple of seconds," Wells advises. "Then gently interrupt her investigation by praising her and asking her to sit or lie down. Reward her with a few small, tasty treats."
Life with New Baby
With the new baby a part of the family routine, it's important to give the dog plenty of attention when the baby is around. Wells suggests feeding the dog when you feed your baby, or bringing the baby along when you take the dog for a walk.
The animal "will learn to love when the baby is awake and active because that's when good things happen for her," Wells explains.
But not all interaction is good. Wells warns against unsupervised action between the baby and a dog. Another pitfall to avoid? Leaving the baby's toys and the dog's toys scattered around together with no distinction, Wells says. Finally, while it's important to prepare for the arrival of the baby, don't simply assume that the two won't get along and try to give your pet away.
Here's hoping Lupo isn't feeling too left out.