Bonds between pets and humans are special. In fact, they’ve been a part of popular culture for as long as we can remember. Dogs aren’t called man’s best friend for nothing. Something that isn’t always talked about or considered is the dynamic of pets and newborn babies. With the relationship between pets and owners being long established, these new members of your family can require a bit of adjusting to co-exist peacefully.
Why Deal With the Hassle If There’s So Much Work?
The answer to this question is simple. For the same reason we get puppy health insurance, and do all of the other things we do for our dogs and other pets – we love them and they make us happier!
Additionally, pets and kids are actually really good for each other! Pets can teach kids how to be affectionate, play nice, and more. Other reasons that pets are good to have around when raising kids include:
Teaching Responsibility: Pets are a great learning tool for kids as they grow up and develop. Once kids understand that owning a pet isn’t all fun and games, they start to take responsibility and ownership. Things like obedience training, cleaning up after the pet, feeding the pet, and other tasks teach kids to be consistent and responsible for life.
Respect and Empathy: Recent studies have shown that having a dog in the home helps teach kids how to respect others. According to this study, kids who have a dog in their home are more likely to share toys with peers and help them or join them instead of taking the toys.
Better Communication, Self-Esteem, and Mental Health: Kids with pets tend to be better about expressing their feelings in a healthy way and resort to tantrums less. Additionally, these kids are happier and feel more loved, therefore improving mental health and self-esteem.
Improved Family Connection: Families are able to bond over memories with their pets. The connection between the family members and the pets creates connections that you just can’t quantify or duplicate any other way.
Protection: This one applies mostly to dogs. Pups are very protective of loved ones and many are even trained to watch and protect homes. Dogs help add safety to your home and protection for your kids.
How to Make It Work With Kids and Pets
This is the million dollar question. The truth is, every situation will be different because of different factors like family size, type of pet, age of pet, how long you’ve had it, living space, and so much more.
There are some things you can try to make the transition a little smoother. We’ll explore a few.
1. Make the Introduction Slowly
Once your pet gets comfy in your home, it starts to view it as their turf. Any new person or thing in that space will take some time to adapt to. The adaptation process can take up to three months for other animals to adapt to one another, and it is reasonable to expect at least that long with a new child.
Since pets can be on edge at first, it’s smart to slowly introduce the child and pet to one another. This helps to reduce territorial behavior by the pet. If you have an overly territorial or confrontational pet, you may want to even start in a neutral environment before fully introducing living together.
2. Provide Your Pet Some Personal Space
If your pet is jealous or frustrated about their new reality, it may help them to have their own space to let loose, cool off, and relax. Pets respond well to a “baby-free” zone where they know they are the main priority and not the kiddo.
This space doesn’t have to be extravagant. A favorite corner with an extra blanket and toy will work.
3. Be a Good Role Model
Kids can be really hard on pets. Although it’s often unintentional, it is still important to teach the kid what’s right and wrong in their interactions with your pet. Your kid will learn best if you go further than simply correcting behaviors as you see them. Be proactive and demonstrate the do’s and don’ts of play with your pet. From places to touch, how rough to be, and anything else that will make the play experience better for all parties involved.
4. Let Your Pet Burn Off As Much Energy As Possible
While the newborn will require just about all of your time, attention, and effort, please don’t forget about the exercise your pet needs as well. A pet that doesn’t get adequate playtime can become jealous or resentful of your baby.
Even if you’re too busy for consistent play as many people are, there are so many options to explore like friends/family, neighborhood dog walkers, and more to get your dog out and moving.
5. Don’t Leave Them Alone Together
This is a rule that must be followed. We know that it’s so easy to know your pet and be confident in their friendly nature, but it is always better to be safe than sorry. All pets and tiny humans are unpredictable, and it’s best to avoid anything happening to your kid or pet when you’re not around.
As mentioned above, pets get jealous amongst other things, so you don’t want your pet having hard feelings towards your newborn and acting up around them. Conversely, kids are not fully aware of how to treat animals either, and you would hate for them to do something accidental that hurts your pet. It’s best that all interactions be supervised until you can be confident they are good together.
6. Obedience Training
Assess your pet’s behavior and how it responds to verbal commands. Figure out what areas could use some work and look to improve on it. It may be easy to overcome those quirks when it’s just you and your pet, but the attention that your newborn will require will make it much harder. To have the most peaceful and loving home possible for your newborn, make sure your dog does the following at the minimum:
- Comes when called no matter what
- Sits and stays on command
- Doesn’t jump on people
- Slows when pulled by leash
Other things to remember you can try include staggering feeding times, letting pets exercise, ignoring jealous behavior, and teaching behavior around equipment.