Introducing a new baby to your four-legged family member

For almost a decade I have been advising conscientious pet owners on how best to introduce a new baby to their four-legged family member. I have even discussed my recommendations on national television… a baby, a dog and live TV… you can imagine the chaos! However, despite all my knowledge, I had no personal experience from which to draw from until the 31st of August 2019 when my first son Hendrix arrived.

Whilst this date was the day Albus’ life would change forever, the preparations for a smooth transition for Hendrix to enter the family started well before. I always advise my clients to start instilling the behavior they want in their pet WELL BEFORE their baby arrives. For example, if you don’t want your pet going in the baby’s room, close the access a few months before the due date. This will lessen the chance they will associate something being taken away from them because of the baby. We are pretty relaxed with Albus and he has free reign of the house however I did a lot of training with him to stop at the side of the road so that he would be good when I was walking with the pram. Whilst I am proud to say he is excellent at this, he leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to barking at the doorbell and jumping up on people when they come in… quite the annoyance with all the baby visitors but maybe we’ll have it mastered in time for baby number two!

In planning for the birth and introduction of Hendrix, we had family members on standby to come and look after Albus when I went into hospital. This way his routine was kept fairly normal and he got to stay in his own house. I also sent my husband home with a blanket that Hendrix had been wrapped in to leave in the house. This is an excellent tip for all expecting parents as it introduces the baby’s smell before their arrival. I may have taken it a step further and actually brought Albus to the hospital grounds so that he could meet Hendrix on neutral territory… and more so I could have a cuddle and yes it may have been a hospital first! Finally, before I came home my husband took Albus for the world’s biggest walk to help quash as much energy as possible and when we walked through the door, an exhausted Albus was ready to take on his new role as big brother.

Consistency is also key for a smooth transition and keeping Albus’ routine has been a major contributor to our happy family. From six days old Hendrix has been coming to the dog park with Albus for his twice daily walks and we are a firm fixture of the Bondi landscape, at times looking like we have it all together and at others more resembling a circus! For those more chaotic times, I have come to rely on a permanent packet of K9 Natural Green Lipped Mussel treats in my pocket to bribe Albus into line! Whilst being out and about may not be an achievable reality for women who have had a difficult birth and/or recovery or are just finding it all a bit too daunting it is the perfect time to call in the support. Husbands, partners, parents, siblings and friends all make excellent dog walkers to help you out.

So far it all sounds very “pet centric”, however both boundaries and inclusion are essential for a happy and safe household. Albus is not allowed Hendrix’s toys (there have been some casualties), or to lick him on the face (on occasion this may have occurred) and we do not leave them together unattended! Albus is however allowed to participate in bath time (he loves to drink the water), lick Hendrix’s toes and sit on his play mat during tummy time. It is all about working out what you are comfortable with and including them as much as possible. We also make sure he has plenty of baby free cuddles on the couch once Hendrix has gone to bed!

There has been lots of trial and error but we love our new family and are beyond thrilled Hendrix is going to grow up with a best friend in Albus!

Written by Dr. Josie Gollan