By: Chris Stanco
As a recent new proud father of a baby boy, many pet parents have asked me what the transition has been like from pet parent to pet parent with new child. After about 5 months now, I feel like I have been gaining some pretty good knowledge as to how to answer the questions that arise surrounding a new child in the house with a pet.
Alexander (my son) and Kramer (my canine son) have been getting along really well, and I am really proud of the way Kramer has handled the transition. My wife Lisa and I were very curious how Kramer would handle having a new little brother, and since day 1 he has embraced him as his little buddy and is around him all the time. That being said, the questions I have fielded from those with pets who are thinking about starting a family have all been really good ones. Mainly, they are asking for advice on what to look for and any helpful tips as they prepare to have a new little one in the house, or are beginning to think about bringing a new member into the family with their pet(s).
Below are the top 10 tips/advice I would offer anyone with a beloved pet who is bringing a new child into the house:
1. Let your pet “get to know” your new addition before he or she even comes home for the first time.
I brought home one of the hats Alex wore his first night at the hospital before bringing him home a day later, so Kramer could get acclimated to his scent. This way, when Kramer sees such a small baby for the first time, he at least had a somewhat familiar scent of his new little brother.
2. Time management for your pet
It is crucial you don’t “forget” about your beloved pet during the first few weeks with a newborn. Some may say that would never happen to them as their bond with their pet is as strong as anything...but believe me, when you are getting no sleep and have this incredible living and breathing child in the house for the first time, you have a tendency to forget about all past routines. To combat this, we made sure that Kramer was “involved” in a lot of what we were doing with Alex (sitting close to us while giving Alex his bottle, hanging with us when people came over to visit Alex, etc.), and kept him close to us so he could realize that Alex is a positive in his life, and not someone replacing him.
3. Drool – You can’t stop it, you can only hope to contain it
Not only will you have a dog drooling all over the house, but now you will have a baby doing it too! Spit up, drool, etc….the works. Try not to get overwhelmed and wear goggles! (Just kidding…or am I?).
4. Routine – Things will change
Kramer’s routine was definitely interrupted with Alex coming into the house. Instead of stubbornly trying to stick to his original daily routines, we adjusted his daily routines slightly to better coincide with a
schedule that would work for both him and Alex. All Kramer knew was that he was still getting the same amount of love and affection (as he should!) and he didn’t even know a difference. We all have routines with our pets….if the time comes for you to bring a new child into the house, adjustments will be necessary.
5. Baby’s Feeding time – Teach your pet that it is not food for him or her
This is obviously easier said than done! Kramer wants to be involved with everything Alex does, and this includes when Alex eats. As we know we can’t stop Kramer’s curiosity, we let Kramer hang around us and Alex when it’s time for Alex to eat. Now that Alex has started some actual baby food, he is in the high chair where Kramer can look up and see what’s going on to make sure he’s “involved.” Before the high chair was in use however, it was key for us to keep a small perimeter around Alex when it was time to eat. It may not seem like much, but Kramer quickly realized that he could watch but not get too close – and it surely helped the fact that formula in a bottle didn’t seem that appealing to Kramer
6. Play time in the family room – Set up boundaries
When it’s time for Alex to spread out on his play mat, we make sure to be directly around him at all times as we know Kramer is going to want to play with us and his little brother. The mat is off limits for Kramer, but the areas around the mat are “in play.” Once that boundary was understood by Kramer, he was very comfortable lying down or taking a seat and watch Alex play with his toys. Kramer most likely really sees this as an opportunity to get time with Lisa and I, which is great because it enables him to yet again, be “involved.”
7. Going for walks – Keep walking
Kramer has kept his normal walking schedule intact, and if anything, he loves it even more now. Between my wife and I, one of us will walk the stroller and the other will walk Kramer. Kramer, who “has to be first” on the walk at all times, has really taken on joy of walking in front of or next to the stroller and strolling with his little brother. If you want to walk your dog and the stroller by yourself, I recommend having your dog do his /her ‘business’ before leaving for the long walk. This eliminates any issues with cleanup, etc.
8. Car Rides
There is nothing in life that Kramer loves more than car rides. In order to keep this tradition alive, we have been trying to bring him with us when one of us has a quick errand to run (post office, getting gas,
etc.) and the other can stay home with Alex. This way, Kramer continues to get his car rides and we do not have to worry about safety issues with him and Alex in the car at the same time. As Alex gets older (or until we get an SUV with a 3rd row), we will continue to make sure Kramer gets his car rides wherever possible.
9. “Vacation” for your pet
I really feel it is important to have some alone time, or get away time with Kramer that may not involve Alex. Outside of the car rides, we make sure to bring Kramer to his grandparents for the day or a few
hours at times so he can play with his grandparents and their dog Molly. He can really let loose and be spoiled like only grandparents can do! For anyone with a new child and pet in the household, this can be accomplished via friends, relatives, dog parks, etc.
10. Love your pet
Although in the very early stages, you may feel overwhelmed with the new responsibilities that come with a new child in the house, you will quickly learn that the love for your pet is everlasting. If anything, the bond your pet has with the new child in the house only makes your love for your pet even greater. I look forward to the many years of enjoyment and fun watching Alex and Kramer grow up together. They will be integral parts of each other’s lives and Kramer, I’m sure, will relish the role of ‘big brother.’