And Baby Makes Five

Posted on by Susannah Teran-Brock, DVM

My partner and I were recently blessed with the addition to our family of a beautiful baby girl. We now happily find our lives turned completely upside down, and the dogs, too, have had their lives changed in the blink of an eye. So, how does one go about preparing a household for a non-furry baby, and then continue to ensure that every member of the family has their needs met appropriately?

The most important rule – Don’t assume your dog will be fine. It’s always best to start a training program before a problem gets out of hand. Some of the things that can have the greatest impact are also those one might take for granted. Changes can cause anxiety for pets, and anxiety can manifest in many forms, including aggression, which you want to avoid at all costs.  Here are a few considerations:

  1. Noises in the house will be different. Peace can be quickly shattered by piercing screams, which can terrify a dog that is used to its relatively quiet environment. Habituating your dog to this possibility when you still have control over the volume can eliminate anxiety once baby arrives. There are several CDs which can be purchased precisely for this exercise. They usually contain several different tracks of baby noises, both the happy and the not-so-happy. Playing these in different rooms in the house and gradually increasing the volume (over many days) helps your pet learn to ignore these sounds and accept them as part of daily house noise.
  2. Odors in the house will change. Some smells, of course, are not able to be replicated prior to baby’s arrival. However, it’s good to familiarize them to as many odors as possible by using soaps and lotions that will be part of baby’s routine, or placing these on face cloths around the house and even in your pet’s bed, so that he (or she) can get used to them. Once the baby is born, if it’s possible to bring a blanket home with baby’s smell prior to baby actually coming home, this too will help the familiarization process for your pets.
  3. Routines will be altered. I find my pets have an uncanny sense of time, letting me know that 7 pm has arrived and it’s time for dinner, even though they don’t wear a watch that I’ve ever seen! With a baby in the house, these routines will become disrupted as the family finds itself at the mercy of the smallest one’s whims. Feeding and walking your pets will not likely follow the previously established schedule. This can cause anxiety if your pets aren’t used to random hours, so try varying routines prior to bringing baby home. Along these lines, remember that your pets will continue to have needs, too, so make sure you set aside time to continue to address these, lest they become anxious if they aren’t greeted when you come home, don’t go on as many walks or get petted as frequently.

These are just a few of the things that you can think about and work on in preparation for a baby’s arrival. However, there will continue to be challenges as the baby grows, becomes mobile, starts playing with toys that often resemble those that the dogs have always played with, and starts interacting with your pets in a more independent manner. There are numerous resources available to help facilitate this process. Remember, though, no matter how great you feel your pet will be, or is being, with your infant, do not leave a child and pet unattended.

About Susannah Teran-Brock, DVM

Dr. Teran-Brock graduated with her veterinary degree from Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City in 2002. She started practicing in Banfield hospitals in 2003, and currently works part-time in our Gresham, Ore. hospital while acting as a consultant for Banfield's medical recordkeeping system. Dr. Teran-Brock and her partner, Maddie, have two Shiba Inus named Ari and Tucker. View all posts by Susannah Teran-Brock, DVM →

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