Building a Relationship Between Pet and Baby

Making the Proper Introductions

Many experts recommend that before you even bring baby home, you bring an article of her clothing, a blanket, or even a soiled diaper of hers for your pet to sniff. An animal's sense of smell is vital, so this step can help your pet become familiar the newborn. When baby actually comes home, have mom go into the house alone first to greet the animal, since the pet is going to be very excited to see her. Or consider boarding the pet with a friend so you can get settled with the baby.

The rules for introducing cats to baby are simple: Because felines are unpredictable by nature, discourage yours from approaching your newborn. Allow her to observe the new family member from a distance.

Introducing a dog to your baby is more complicated. When you're ready to supervise a meeting between them, follow these instructions:

  • Have someone restrain the dog on a leash while you sit on a chair, holding baby on your lap and covering her head with a hand. (This shows your protectiveness of the new person in the house and also prevents your dog from nipping at baby's ears.)
  • Do not place baby on the floor, and never hold baby over your dog's head, which encourages jumping.
  • Talk to your dog in a calm and normal voice, petting and stroking him for reassurance.
  • If he doesn't display any aggressive behavior, such as growling, hissing, pointing his ears back, or putting his tail down, you may slowly allow him to see and sniff -- but not lick -- your little one. Licking is unsanitary and may be a prelude to biting.
  • Make sure the dog is held firmly on the leash and anticipate having to pull him back. If your dog displays any negative behavior whatsoever, say "no," and command him to back down or physically remove him from the room. If he retreats on his own, reward him.
  • Even if all goes well, it's best to keep your dog on a leash any time he's around the baby for at least the first three weeks, during which time you can observe his behavior.

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