Bringing a new baby home to meet your first “baby” or introducing a new pet into your family can be really stressful and, if you’re not careful, dangerous. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few tips for keeping things safe for both your children and your pets.
1. Keep pet toys and children’s toys separate. You don’t want your toddler playing with a slobbery dog toy anymore than you want your pet choking on a Lego®. Aside from those obvious facts, keeping the toys separate will avoid any territorial conflicts—for both parties.
2. Make sure your pet has a “time out” spot, and teach your children that the space is off limits to allow your pet to get away and de-stress if needed.
3. Teach your child the warning signs of an aggressive animal (growling/hissing, fur standing on end, forward posture, sharp movements, showing teeth, etc.) and to back away slowly (and quietly) if they notice any of this behavior.
4. Never leave your baby, toddler or child alone with a pet unsupervised. This may seem obvious, but even previously “harmless” dogs have been known to snap from time to time.
5. Protect your pet as well as your child. Toddlers are especially notorious for not knowing their own strength, and they are testing their limits by hitting, stomping (yes, stomping, my daughter goes for our dog’s feet mostly), and pulling (usually ears and tails).
6. “Let sleeping dogs lie” . . . and cats and whatever else you have in your menagerie. The same goes while pets are eating or caring for their own babies.
7. If you’re introducing a new baby, give your pet a blanket with the baby’s scent on it so they can become accustomed to the new smell.
8. Don’t assume all pets are as kid-friendly as your own—a lesson my brother learned the hard way at the age of two, and he still has the scar on his lip to prove it.
9. Teach your pet basic commands (sit, stay, down, etc.) and enforce them or, better yet, enroll your pet in a training class.
10. Follow the 3 S’s when introducing a new baby to your pet: Sniff—Sit—Supervise. Allow your pet to sniff around and get used to the new smells (aka your baby); let your pet sit calmly with you and the baby; always supervise your pet and your baby.