Some people think we’ll see a lot of “quarantine babies,” conceived during the COVID pandemic when most people were stuck at home. True or not, it’s a good idea for all prospective parents or grandparents to get their pets ready for the new arrival. Here are my five top tips for success.
1. You really can’t begin too soon to prepare your pet for this big change. Take this time to make sure your cat or dog has lots of interactive dogs, food puzzles, treat balls, “find the treat” games, and so on, so she gets rewarded when she’s having fun without your direct involvement.
2. You should also make sure your pet is used to being on his own, something that is a problem as COVID restrictions ease as well. There’s a great overview of how to do that at FearFreeHappyHomes.com.
3. Before the new baby is born, take your pet to the veterinarian to make sure he is in good health and free of parasites. Finally and if necessary, work with a trainer or behaviorist to resolve behaviors like jumping up on people, aggression or fear issues, or housetraining challenges.
4. Get your pet used to baby sounds and smells. Apply baby products such as lotion and diaper cream to your hands before handling your pet’s toys and playing with him. Introduce baby noises through the use of a CD such as “Preparing Fido.” Before you bring the baby home for the first time, have someone take home an item such as a blanket with the baby’s scent on it, then praise and treat your pet as she sniffs it.
5. When the baby comes home for the first time, greet your pet first without the baby. Then let them meet under your direct supervision, and give your pet a high-value treat immediately after a peaceful sniffing and listening session. Taking it slow, rewarding your pet for quiet interations with your child, and always supervising them when they’re together will forge a strong and lasting foundation for the child-pet relationship going forward.