Preparing Your Pet for Your Baby's Arrival
My first baby was a 5-pound French bulldog puppy named Napoleon. For three glorious years, he led the life of a pampered New York City pooch. Then, in October 2003, his perfect world was shattered by the high-decibel cries of a strange, tiny creature who couldn't even walk to her own water dish -- our newborn daughter, Sasha. Napoleon spent a considerable amount of time sulking. However, after some lavish affection from our next-door neighbors, a few new treats, and a bit of obedience training for both child and dog, Napoleon and Sasha have become fast friends, proving that even the most spoiled pet can learn to love his new sibling. Here's how to make it happen.
Understanding a little animal psychology can help make things easier on felines and canines alike. All pets are concerned with territory. If, for example, your cat likes to sleep in a particular spot in your family room, pick another spot to park the bouncy seat.
And animals, like babies, thrive on predictability and routine. If you're planning on moving your furniture around or turning your office into a nursery, do it long before the baby comes so your pet can get used to one world-rocking change at a time. "Let your cat or dog sniff around the baby's room and look at her things," says Janis Driscoll, PhD, an animal behaviorist at Animal Behavior Associates, a company that troubleshoots animal behavior problems, in Denver, Colorado. "By the time baby comes home, your pet won't be quite so curious about her belongings."
Of course, it also helps to give your pet a preview of what life will be like with his new sibling. Host a few children and their parents for an hour or two. This will give you some idea as to how your pet will respond to the chaos a new child can bring. It will also give you the opportunity to change any behavior you don't like. "If your dog tends to jump up, say no firmly," says Robert DeFranco, an animal behaviorist with the Animal Behavior Society, in Rego Park, New York. The less positive reinforcement an animal gets from a behavior, the less likely he is to continue it.