Bringing a new baby home is so exciting, but you should have systems in place to introduce them to your pet. Here, a vet shares her advice on getting it right.

Introducing a new pet to your baby

When your family has consisted of you and your partner, plus your dog or cat, it can be hard for your pet to make an adjustment when a new family member arrives. Bringing a new baby into your home, especially your first, is an exciting yet emotional experience and your pet can sometimes feel on the outer. Here’s expert advice from Dr Helen Harvey of Greencross Vets to ensure the transition is smooth for everyone.

Before the baby arrives

Let your pet investigate the nursery. Any pet will be curious about changes to their environment and the same is true when a nursery is set up. Once your pet has taken in the new sights and smells, make the room out of bounds to your pet unless you specifically invite them in. For those pets that are determined to sleep on your child’s cosy new furniture, install a screen door or baby gate so that you can see and hear your baby without your pet being able to get in.

Be prepared

While you are still pregnant, it’s important to visit your vet to ensure your pet is up to date with vaccinations, heartworm prevention and flea and worm control. Take advantage of SMS reminder systems and longer-acting treatments for worming that are on offer. This will help you stay on top of your whole family’s health once your new baby arrives.

You also need to set boundaries at this stage. A well-trained, obedient pet is much easier to handle when your hands are full. Training takes time so start when you are pregnant. Pets that sleep on the bed should be moved onto the floor, ideally in another room. And reinforce basic commands such as sit, stay and come, so you and your pet are on the same page.

This phase is a good time to introduce your pet to walking beside a pram. Let them work out the basics beside an empty pram so they aren’t startled when the baby rides inside.

Once your baby arrives home

Scent has a huge impact on your dog. Familiarise your dog with the scent of your baby by bringing home a onesie that the baby has worn and allowing your pet to smell it. When you arrive home, your pet will have missed you and may be overexcited at first. Greet your pet when they are calm without holding the baby and then carry on as normal with the baby.

To introduce the baby to your dog, have one person hold the baby and another have the dog under control either with a ‘sit’ command or on a lead. Praise your pet for calm, obedient and relaxed behaviour when they are sniffing the baby.

If your pet appears scared, withdrawn or fearful of the baby don’t force a meeting, just reassure them and allow them to get used to your baby in their own time.