If you’re overly concerned about your pet’s behavior around your baby, consider hiring a professional trainer to come to your house and assess the situation. “But I really doubt that going to that extreme is necessary in the vast majority of cases,” Dr. Osborne says. “Everybody learns to adjust, you just need to let it happen gradually.”
Don’t leave your pet and child alone together until your child is school-aged.
“The fact is, a baby is a baby, and dogs and cats work by instinct,” Dr. Osborne says. “It only takes a second to have a problem. The animal can get frightened for one of a million reasons — babies move their arms and legs erratically, they make loud noises, they might accidentally poke your pet in the nose or eyes. It can be scary to a pet, and in that situation your infant is helpless.”
She suggests putting up a baby gate, if needed, to keep your pets out of your baby’s room. “The baby can’t help itself but you can take charge of your pet,” she shares, adding that behaviorists don’t suggest leaving kids and babies alone until children are at least 5 years old, if not older.
Once your child gets older, teach them to be gentle with pets.
“Little kids might poke them in the eyes or pull their tails,” Dr. Osborne says. “In this case you’ll need to work with the pet and the child so that they learn not to do those things.”
One suggestion is to use a stuffed animal to show your child how to pet an animal properly, and which body parts you can’t touch.
“I know some people think their dogs are small people but unfortunately, they’re dogs,” she says. “We humanize them and some really are wonderful and fabulously trained, but some don’t tolerate kids’ behaviors.”
To those who might feel overwhelmed, Dr. Osborne says to focus on the payoff.
“Honestly, initially, most pets will look at babies with complete indifference and move on. And in my experience as a vet, I find that kids who start life out with a pet have a very best friend from day one. It’s amazing. The sooner you are prepared will make everything that much better.”
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