How to introduce pets to babies.
Last week we had a new baby in the family… A fur baby! Welcome Poppy the Puppy! My mom has an 8 week old Bichon Frise puppy. She is surprisingly well behaved. However, my mom is worried about Ollie being there and made the mistake of saying, “If you hurt Ollie I’ll hurt you!” (She wouldn’t actually hurt Poppy!) This was a big mistake because my younger sister is a Canine Psychologist. She is a qualified dog trainer and also has a diploma in Animal Management so she knows a lot about animals but dogs are her specialty.
I don’t claim to be an expert on this subject but I have had pets pretty much my whole life, we currently have two rabbits and a bearded dragon. So I’m going to, as always, discuss my experience having pets and a baby. I have also asked my sister, who is an expert, to contribute. So here are our top five tips, from a mother collaborating with her experienced (she’s also done dog grooming and worked in a pet shop), highly qualified younger sister…
“Remain calm. Babies and animals are very in tune with tone of voice and pitch. If you are loud they will stress, if you are excited and very high pitched they will also get excited and it will be harder to control the situation.”
This one was easy for me because I’m a calm person. Ollie seems to really like all the pets, he smiles when he sees them so I can just act normal like this is no big deal! I say, “Yay doggy!” when she runs past because Yay is our positive word! Yay for swimming, yay for good eating, so he’ll associate Poppy with good things!
“I would say be confident. Have faith and trust that you have control of the situation. If you show doubt the animal will certainly pick up on it and very quickly feel uneasy which could lead to re-directed aggression towards the baby.”
Since Ollie has been sitting up I’ve been letting him sit and watch the rabbits in their cage. When I saw that he wasn’t scared or bothered by them I sat him in his chair and stood far back holding a rabbit saying, “Aww she’s nice!” He smiled so I moved closer and he reached out to touch her! I think he trusts me because I wasn’t worried! He’d pick up on negativity from me so being confident definitely helps! (I know her advice is about dogs but I think there are bits that are applicable to all pets!)
“Allow them to meet. This means don’t go ‘look at the lovely doggy all the way across the room very far away from you lovely baby so they can’t get you’ haha animals need to stiff and lick to investigate and make a decision as to whether the thing infront of them is a threat or is going to become their new best friend. Let them explore together.”
Looking from across the room is certainly a good starting point but don’t do it for long! Poppy jumped up at Ollie and he grabbed her fur, so a controlled meeting is much better because you don’t want either of them to get hurt! I have also let Ollie see Jeff the bearded dragon. Again, “Yay Jeffy, he’s nice!” The thing to remember about reptiles is, they are cold blooded and have no human bonding, basically, they don’t care about us! Smaller reptiles will not care that kids are there and larger reptiles will bite if hungry and not feel guilty or like they’ve let you down!
However, the bonus to introducing reptiles to babies is the baby will grow up liking animals and not being scared of funny looking creatures! I personally wouldn’t introduce a baby to a giant snake or lizard because they sense heat and movement and might attack but small reptiles are fine, I don’t let Ollie touch Jeff because his claws are really sharp and although he wouldn’t attack him, one wrong move and he might get hurt. He looks at him from a safe distance.
“Give the animal and baby equal attention when allowing them to meet. Now I know people will say ‘nope my dog or animal needs to know from day one that the baby is above them and they at the bottom’. To a degree yes this is true but you also have to be careful. You have to remember this animal has been used to being just about them. Now all of a sudden this attention is going to be shared with this new baby. Think of it as the older sibling. If all of a sudden you shut them out of family activities and started shouting at them the moment they started doing things what do you think they will do? They will retaliate and begin to hate that baby. With an animal with teeth you don’t want to cause this re-directed aggression. Make sure your pet knows they are still loved and still a massive part of the family! We all need to feel loved.”
This is why my sister is against punishing Poppy if she accidentally hurts Ollie!
“Never leave them alone. As much as I will stick up for all animals especially dogs because I know them well, I would never leave a baby and an animal on their own. Still be aware that they have instincts and they have first time reactions.”
I could write a parenting politics blog on this subject! I think it’s really sad when kids get hurt but I do always think, why were they left alone? My mom worries about our adopted cat friend JC (a little stray we feed and let in) she always says, “Don’t leave him by Ollie!” I always make a joke, “Oh, but he’s our new babysitter!” I want Ollie to like animals and not be scared but I’m not stupid!
It wouldn’t be right to write an animal blog without mentioning our lovely Molly who inspired my younger sister to study animal behaviour! We miss you old girl! August 2000 – August 2014!
For more information on dog behaviour, my sister writes a blog! She will answer any specific questions about canine behaviour so don’t be shy, comment and ask for her advice! http://www.dogbehaviourhq.wordpress.com