Tips for Welcoming the Newest Member of Your Family –
Animals and children naturally get along. Your pet will love the attention it gets from its new little human friend and the baby will love its furry playmate. But things aren’t always easy. Tails can get pulled and babies can get attacked, so it’s a good idea to prepare well and make the introduction gradual. Here are some tips on how to get the relationship off on the right foot and keep it safe and fun.
Take It Slow
Introducing grandbabies and pets should be a gradual process. Your pet needs to get used to the new family member and may be frightened at first. It may take several encounters before your pet is comfortable and there could be weeks of hiding under the bed. This is totally natural and okay. Be patient with the process.
Preparing Your Pet for the Baby
Give your pet its own space where it can get away from the baby. For a dog, this could be a crate or a bed where it likes to sleep. For a cat, give them a special play area or a bed that’s located high and out-of-reach.
A good way to create this space is to make one room of the house safe for your pet. Put your pet’s bed and favorite things in this room. The living room can be a common area where the interactions take place. When your pet has had enough of the baby, it can retreat to a quiet and safe environment.
If there are small behavior issues with your pet, the months before the baby arrives is a good time to tackle them. These small problems can intensify when you add the stress of the new arrival. Plus, if you eliminate these problems, you have one less thing to deal with when introducing pet and baby.
The needs of dogs and cats are different and you need to prepare them accordingly. More detail for each can be found in the article; introducing dogs and babies, and another for introducing cats and babies.
Preparing the Little One
There’s not much you can do to prepare a baby to meet your pet. During every encounter between the two, you should be there in control of both your pet and the baby. If either decides it has had enough, separate them and get them together another time.
However, if your grandchild is a toddler, there are some things you can do to prepare them. Doubtless they’ve seen a few dogs and cats before and they probably want to chase after and squeeze them until their eyes are bugging out. But before they meet the pet, you should instruct them on how to pet an animal gently. Use a stuffed animal to demonstrate. Tell them that dogs and cats like quiet, so running and shouting will scare them away. Add that if they upset the dog or cat, they won’t be able to pet them.
With toddlers, there’s only so much they can understand about pets. If they’re at the age where they’re running around but they don’t yet understand your instructions, you may want to postpone the first meeting until they’re a bit older. Make sure your pet has its safe place to escape to, and make sure the toddler can’t go there.
The First Introduction
The first introduction should be short and relaxed. Don’t make a big production of it. While you’re excited to introduce your pet and grandchild, too much excitement could lead to stress in either or both.
Let the pet make the first move. Don’t foist the baby upon them. Let them sniff and check out the baby on their own terms, with the option of running away to their safe place open at all times.
Start with short encounters and make them longer as the pet gets used to the baby. Make sure that your pet gets plenty of attention and positive reinforcement while the baby is around. This may prevent jealousy and acting out. You might consider giving your pet treats or other rewards for playing nice with the baby.
Talk to the parents about expectations for when the baby and pet first meet. For example, they may be expecting the pet to be completely separated from the baby, while you’re picturing a more hands-on approach. Since you’re introducing their baby and your pet, decide together on which approach is best.
Your Pet’s Personality
One major factor is the personality of your pet. Some are naturally more social than others, while some need more space. Some pets need more attention and positive reinforcement from their owners than others. For shy pets, make the process even slower and more gradual, with short, comfortable doses of the baby.
You should watch your pet’s body language. When your pet is with the baby, its body language will tell you what is going on in its mind. Dogs tense their bodies, tuck back their tails and widen their eyes when nervous or afraid. Cats flip their tales back and forth to show that their patience is ebbing. Your pet will tell you when they’ve had enough or when they’re about to act aggressively.
Another thing to consider is your pet’s age. A young pet is likely to be bouncing off the walls. It may be rambunctious and could harm the baby with its over-eager licks and playing. You’ll need to be extra watchful and ready to separate the two when they’re together.
An older pet may be grumpy or irritable due to health problems. For an older pet, make the process more gradual with smaller doses of the baby and more positive reinforcement from you.
No matter how much you trust your pet, never leave pet and baby unattended. Even a laid-back and docile cat could scratch or bite a baby, and babies’ skin is very sensitive. A small scratch could be a huge injury for them. When you’re unsure, err on the side of caution and keep the two separate. It may be slow going at first, but your pet and grandbaby will get used to each other.