Dr Felicity offers some tips for getting your pet ready to welcome home a new baby

Bringing home a new baby is exciting and tricky, and you definitely don’t need the added stress of an anxious pet during your baby’s first weeks back at home.

Our son is now 18 months old and the process of integration, while not complete, has been going well. With four dogs at home, we certainly had our work cut out for us!

Panda, our very docile three-year-old Wolfhound x Rottweiler is kept outside. The smaller dogs that are allowed inside include Stolli, our 12-year-old Staffordshire Terrier, and Scrap and Bruce, our five-year-old mixed breed terriers.

Here are my top tips for minimising and managing stress in when you bring home your baby:

House rules

Decide on any new house rules that the dog will have to abide by once the new baby comes home and have these implemented well before the baby arrives.

Establish zones for indoor dogs where they can relax without access to the baby.
We decided our dogs would no longer be allowed on the couch and also that they would all be outside during the day.

Any fundamental rule changes like these can be stressful for dogs and always require a period of adjustment that is best endured by the dogs well before the inevitable stress of a new baby in the house.

Training

Complete any re-training required with lots of positive reinforcement of correct and calm behaviour.

Break bad habits

Stop carrying around any small dogs that are used to this well before the baby arrives otherwise carrying the baby instead of the dog can be a source of jealousy.

Implement a routine

Minimise your dog’s anxiety levels by ensuring its routine is well-established beforehand and then maintained as closely as possible once the baby arrives.

Interaction

Allow the dog to see and smell but not touch the new baby – give praise for calm behaviour.

Facilitate introductions through barriers where dog and baby can communicate without contact.

Contact with pets should only be allowed when the child understands how to be gentle and the dog is fully relaxed in the presence of the child. Familiarise yourself with negative body language that many dogs will display when they begin to feel anxious or uncomfortable.

NEVER leave unrestrained dogs with children, even when fully supervised. If there is to be any sort of contact without a barrier in between, the child should be held by one person and the dog fully restrained by another.