I came to a startling realization at work the other day. As I sat at my desk working, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a small child walking into the office. Monty (my dog) freaked out and tried to get as far away from the child as possible. Luckily for Monty, the toddler did not press the issue of wanting to pet the puppy and amused itself with other things in the room. I have always known Monty was not a fan of children. It all stems from a horrible first encounter with the mini versions of humans when six neighborhood children stormed into my yard and chased him around to the point of pure terror which ended in him running full speed into a closed door in an attempt to get away from them.
While I understand this is mostly my fault for not working harder on socializing him to children after that, I never thought it was necessary since I never plan on having children or ever being around them. But this was my startling realization at work: what if I get pregnant? (someone go revive my fainted family please) Sure, it’s not in my life plan, but things happen – and I would only have a few months to get Monty from terrified to accepting a baby as a family member.
So how does one do it? How does one prepare the family dog for a baby? All too often I’ve seen animals surrendered to the shelter because the expecting parents are worried they won’t get along or the dog/cat is not doing well with the new bundle of joy the parents recently brought home. This is all avoidable – you can prepare your dog and/or cat for a baby and make it a successful transition for the entire family. And, yes, even Monty can learn to (at the bare minimum) tolerate the little ones.
Set up the nursery area as soon as possible. The entire room: furniture, clothes, toys, diapers, baby powder… whatever supplies you plan on using. The purpose is to give your pets time to adjust to all these new sights and smells. You should also prepare your pets for the new routine that will take place once the baby arrives. What will happen to the dog’s feeding and walk times once the baby comes? Make these changes now so your dog can adjust. Also, about a month or so before the baby arrives, keep the baby’s room closed so the animals learn to leave it alone and that it’s not their space.
It is also a great idea to invite friends over who have babies so your pets can get used to the sounds a baby makes. If you don’t have any friends with babies, get an audio of a crying baby to attempt to desensitize your pets to all the weird and new sounds a baby makes. It’s also not a bad idea to have a family member bring one of the baby’s blankets home a day early so the pets can get used to the baby’s smell.
Once the baby arrives, do not forget about your pets! You are going to be very busy, but they still need their walks, play time, and attention that they are used to. And never, NEVER leave your pets alone with the baby. No matter what, no matter how great the dog is when you are around. And definitely give your pets time to adjust. This is a big change in their (and your) lives.