Forging a Friendship
After three weeks, if all has gone well:
- Include your pet in your daily routine. Allow him to follow you around as you feed and change and otherwise care for baby. Continue to use the leash if necessary.
- Give your pet as much attention and affection as possible when the baby is around. Slip your pet a favorite treat of his when you feed the baby, and take your dog along when going out for a stroll.
- Supervise all contact between your pet and baby. Don't have them in the same room unless you are close enough to intervene if trouble arises.
As your baby begins to crawl and walk, maintain your vigilance. Your toddler will still have a lot to learn about how to treat an animal, and even the most gentle pet will bite or scratch when hurt.
Your child will stagger and fall without notice, which may startle your pet and make him defensive. Keep your dog away from baby if your child is using a walker, exerciser, or jumper, which prop a young baby upright, often at a dog's eye level, which can be a challenge to the dog. Don't allow your baby and your pet to be in each other's company unattended for baby's first two years.
As you train your pet to respect your baby, you will naturally want to teach your baby to respect the animal, too.
- Show your little one how to stroke your pet gently; to avoid poking the animal's eyes and ears or placing his hands on your pet's mouth; and avoid tugging on your pet or pulling its fur.
- Teach your child the concept of territory. Explain that anything within six inches of the dog's face, for instance, belongs to the dog.
- In time, allow your toddler to help care for your pet, placing food and water bowls down and offering treats.
You may need to wait for this stage before your child and pet take more interest in each other. If you have visions now of your baby sitting on the floor happily playing with your pet, you may have to be patient. The learning process involved -- for both animal and child -- in building such a friendship takes time.