Why Having A Pet Makes Kids (And Families) Stronger + How To Introduce Your Baby To Animals

Photo: J Danielle Wehunt / Stocksy

A child who gets to grow up with a pet by their side is sure to enjoy countless hours of true companionship—and they may learn a few lessons in responsibility, too. But a new University of Alberta study showed that the benefits of growing up with a pet can start off as early as infanthood. According to the study, babies from families with pets—70 percent of which were dogs—showed higher levels of two types of microbes associated with lower risks of allergic disease and obesity. So, aside from having an automatic best friend, your child could possibly reap some other not-so obvious health benefits to boot. Set their relationship up for success right from the start by taking a few steps to prepare your pet for the arrival of your new bundle of joy.

After nine months of pregnancy, labor, and a delivery, you would think the hard part is over, right? But when bringing a new baby home for the first time, your four-legged family member may be the most skeptical if not properly prepped. If you are getting ready to bring home your first child—or even a second or third—and are worried about introducing your fur baby to your real baby, here are five key tips for introducing your babies:

1. Brush up on the basics.

Ensuring your pet is familiar with basic commands will help you both be more confident when the baby arrives. Simple commands like sit, stay, and down (for a dog) will come in handy if you need to stop your pet from jumping or disturbing the baby while he or she sleeps. If you've never been one for obedience training, it may be a good idea to take a training class with your pet or to have a professional trainer visit your home; this way you can both practice in your own environment.

2. Let your pet be a part of the setup.

If you keep your pet out of your baby's nursery while you're setting up, she may develop negative connotations with the space—and possibly with your baby once he or she comes home to occupy it. Let your pet be with you while you hang up the baby clothes or make up the crib. Give them a few belly rubs, chin scratches, or a treat while they keep you company there. Your pet will have time to acclimate to the changed space and remember that positive interactions happen there.

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3. Gradually adjust her routine.

If your pet will be going out on fewer walks or being fed at different times than she is used to, start gradually adjusting your routine as the weeks approach your due date. This way, there won't be any abrupt disruptions, which will hopefully result in fewer accidents or bad behaviors.

4. Get her feet wet.

If you have a friend or family member with an infant, ask if they'd be comfortable introducing their child to your pet. Getting your pet used to baby sounds, which can be jarring, and habits before your own baby arrives will also give her a leg up when it's time for her to meet her human sibling.

5. Make the introduction a positive one.

When it's finally time for your new baby to meet your first baby—your pup—set them up for success. The two don't have to meet right from the moment you walk through the door, as they may see the baby as a foreign object that's too close to Mom or Dad for comfort. Consider having a new interactive pet toy on hand that will help entertain your dog or cat while everyone gets situated. Once everyone is settled and calm, let your pet smell your baby's blanket, bonnet, or toy. This will allow them to become familiar with the baby's scent. If your pet seems comfortable, let her sniff and even lick your baby, and give her positive attention when she does.

The most important thing to remember is to give your pet positive attention when they're around the baby to offset feelings of jealousy. Keep your own mood calm; stay positive, and hopefully your pet will follow suit!

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