Balancing Baby and Pets

Having a baby is one of the oft quoted reasons for abandoning or giving up a pet. While it’s true that such people should not have opted for a pet in the first place, deserting your pet for the sake of your baby’s well being says a lot about the person than the animal that’s being left in the lurch.

Pets add value to life in a variety of ways. Scientific research has proven that children who grow up with pet dogs and cats have a better immune system and can steer clear of allergies later in life. On the other hand, getting your pets adjusted to baby’s arrival is no mean task – so here are a few tips to help make it easier:

Help your dog / cat accept your baby. Your pet may not only be feeling displaced but also overwhelmed by all the new noises and smells in the house. To help your dog and baby coexist, give him a treat when the baby cries, squeals, or coos so he’ll associate those baby sounds with something positive. And instead of making all things baby off-limits, let your furry companion take a whiff of your little one’s feet, clothes, and diapers as you hold each one to his nose. Dogs learn a lot about their world through smell, so getting your pooch familiar with your baby’s scent—may help him settle down easily.

Work off that energy. No doubt, taking care of your baby’s needs has risen to the top of your to-do list while the needs of your previously pampered pet have practically fallen off altogether. But you can tend to both at the same time through exercise, which is a great way to burn off steam for both two-legged and four-legged family members. Plus, a walk will likely channel your dog’s pent-up energy into something more constructive. So bring your dog along when you head out with the baby. If that’s not possible, enlist your partner, a friend, or a dog walker to take him out for a stroll or some backyard playtime. Remember, a tired-out dog is a usually a better-behaved one.

Catch your dog being good. Positive reinforcement goes a long way toward getting the behavior you want (a good thing to remember when your sweet baby turns into a sassy tot), so reward your dog for being obedient and calm when he’s around your daughter.

Simultaneously bond with your dog and baby. You want your pup to realize that good things can happen when the baby is around. Put those new-mama multitasking skills to the test by petting your dogwhile you feed your little one or tossing a ball while you cuddle with your two-legged cutie. If your baby needs your full-on attention, give the dog a new chew toy to play with while you’re busy. Or put the dog bed near your baby’s changing table or high chair with a treat or toy. If baby time equals fun-time (or you-time) for your dog, chances are he’ll be less hyper.

Practice pet-safety rules. No matter how well these strategies might work or how famously your little one and family pet seem to be getting on, never leave your baby (and, later, your toddler) alone in a room with your dog (or any animal). And if your dog is the aggressive kind, sign him up for an obedience class or get help from a trainer. The more you help your dog and baby interact, the safer and calmer your home will be.

Here’s to a paw-sitively happy babyhood!

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