By Ben Huber & Elsie Lampl
This summer, we added baby Ada to our family of two dogs, Jack, a Labradoodle, and Bumble Bee, an American Bulldog. After the requisite 30 seconds of ooooing and aahhhing over the new baby, the first question people ask is “How are the dogs doing?” The short answer is great! Bumble Bee is kind of indifferent and is just going with the flow. Jack, on the other hand, has found his best friend. He never leaves Ada’s side and his main concern seems to be her happiness.
Although we are not trainers and have no experience in animal psychology or obedience, we’ve compiled a list of things to consider when introducing a new baby to your pets based on our personal research and experience, both positive and negative. There are also many classes offered at places like Animal Friends and hospitals that expecting couples can take to learn how to successfully introduce their human baby to their furbabies.
Before the baby arrives:
•Stop bad behaviors early! Jack has a “jumping” problem when he first meets people. Although we knew the problem would be exacerbated when the baby was born, we kept pushing off working on training. Before we knew it, we were having the baby, and having a newborn is not an ideal time to train a dog! We now regret not working on Jack’s jumping as soon as that pregnancy test turned out to be positive (and we had a lot of extra time for dog training!).
• Try to incorporate any changes before the baby comes. If you do not want the dogs and cats to be on furniture or in certain rooms, start enforcing this long before the baby comes. This way, the pets won’t associate the baby with their new restrictions and the boundaries will be enforced and understood by the time you are busy with a baby. We decided to no longer allow the dogs to sleep in bed with us and started enforcing it early on. (However, in the early weeks after Ada came home, the dogs sensed our exhaustion and took it as an opportunity to sneak up on the bed while we were sleeping).
• Have dad bring home a receiving blanket early with the baby’s smells on it. We did this. We have no idea if it made a difference, as Jack and Bumble Bee didn’t seem interested in it.
• Set all of your baby stuff out early, including the Pack n’ Play, toys, mats, swings, the crib, etc. Our dogs sniffed at all of it for several days, but by the time the baby came they were normal pieces of furniture to the dogs.
• Get your pets accustomed to baby noises and smells. Recommendations include playing the sound of a baby crying, wearing baby powder and carrying around an infant. We didn’t do any of this although we had good intentions to do so.
• Plan for a pet sitter! You probably won’t know when you’ll be going to the hospital, but it’s important to make sure you’re prepared. Also, just as you would prepare a hospital bag for mom in advance, pack one for your pets regardless of whether someone is coming to your home or if you are dropping them off somewhere. We knew Ben’s mother would be watching the dogs, so well-ahead of our due date we brought treats, food, toys, bowls and other supplies to her house so all we would have to worry about on the big day (or night) was getting the dogs there.
After the baby comes home:
•Your pets may not react the way you think they will with the new baby. Our boys’ reactions were what we expected, but not from the dog we expected. We thought Bumble Bee, who is a people lover and a seeker of affection, would be smitten with baby Ada and shadow her every move, but he acts as if she has been there for years, and only gets up to check on her when she lets out a good, hard cry. Jack, who normally doesn’t care about people other than his mom, Elsie, has now taken on the role of Super Nanny. Whether 3:00 pm or 3:00 am, if Ada makes a noise he is by her side looking at us with an urgent whine that says, “You should run to her just as fast as I do.”
•Incorporate the baby and the pets into your daily life. Although it’s a lot of work, we take at least one daily walk with both dogs and the baby.
• Don’t leave the baby alone with the dogs. We absolutely do not think our dogs would ever do anything on purpose to hurt the baby. That being said, they are still dogs and we are still in an adjustment period. We don’t leave the baby within the dogs’ reach alone, ever. Our biggest concern is that one of the dogs would go to greet the baby (as in lick or sniff her) and step on her or paw her for attention.
•Make sure your dogs are getting enough exercise. For the first two weeks, we were skipping the dogs’ evening walk because of the baby and the ridiculous heat outside. We noticed that they had pent-up energy, which isn’t healthy for us or them. Once the weather broke and we started walking them in the evenings again, we noticed a much calmer environment in our home.
• Make sure mom pays attention to the pets, not just petting but walking and feeding them too. It doesn’t have to be every time, but it helps if there isn’t a complete abandonment of these duties. To that effect, when the baby comes home, make sure dad brings the baby in the house and mom comes in and greets the pets.
•Spoil your pets! They might be nervous, over-excited, and confused. Your attention will also be diverted to the baby and away from the pets. Having some special chews and toys to give them during the first couple of weeks can go a long way to making sure your pets feel loved. Long-lasting chews like bully sticks, Himalayan Dog Chews made from yak cheese, and puzzle toys, as well as new catnip or interactive cat lures and chasers, will not only keep your pets busy, but it will buy mom and dad a few minutes of peace.
•Think about a calming solution. Jack was extra excited for the first couple of days, particularly when the baby cried. The first night we were home, every time the baby cried, Jack cried. This meant extra work all night, as we couldn’t calm Jack down. The next day we got a calming collar and it worked wonders! Jack was still very interested and concerned when Ada cried, but we no longer had to calm Jack every time we calmed the baby. The collar used pheromones to calm him. The effect was nothing near being “drugged” or “doped”; rather, it was as if someone turned his excitement down a notch––same dog, just more relaxed.
It will take some time to integrate your new baby into your home, but making sure your pets are less stressed, feel cared for and are part of the family will go a long way to making them feel more comfortable around your new bundle of joy.
Petagogy (pronounced pet-uh-go-jee) specializes in premium and natural pet foods, treats and supplies for dogs, cats and small mammals. Petagogy is located at 5880 Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside. Store hours are Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm and Sunday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Visit their website at www.petagogypgh.com.
Learn all about these tips and many more at Animal Friends’ Baby-Ready Pets Class!
The excitement of preparing for a new baby should not be dampened by concerns about your pets’ reactions. With some planning, preparation and training, introducing your newest family member to your pet can be very successful and rewarding. The Baby-Ready Pets! Workshop will assist you in making the preparations for these introductions. Please note that this is a people-only class; no pets, please. Seating is limited and advance registrations are required. Instructors: Ron and Mary Papik.
Date: Tuesday, October 16 2012 - Click here to RSVP!
Time: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm