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My Pet World: Soon-to-be parents, prepare pets before baby arrives

August 30, 2011|By Steve Dale

Lots of families expecting their first baby already consider a pet their "baby."

They convince themselves that Fido or Fluffy will get the same attention as always when their real baby arrives. Of course, that doesn't happen.

Not only are some pets not equipped to handle the smelly, screaming new arrival, but their previously predictable lifestyle is suddenly up for grabs. When pet meets baby under these circumstances, the pet loses. But it doesn't need to be that way, according to a new brochure, "Pet Meets Baby," available for free online from the American Humane Assn. at http://www.americanhumane.org/petmeetsbaby.

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AHA national ambassador Victoria Stilwell, host of Animal Planet's "It's Me or the Dog," agrees that "If you start preparing at least two or three months before the baby is born, odds are you will prevent problems."

"Prevention is everything," says Dr. Patricia Olson, DVM, scientific advisor for the AHA. Her own daughter, Dr. Amy Olson, a critical care and pulmonary specialist at National Jewish Hospital in Denver, recently arrived home to greet her golden retriever, Eloise, holding newborn twins Sophie and Jacob.

"We brought home blankets and clothes the twins had been swaddled in to first introduce Eloise to the smells of their new family members," Amy Olson says.

When Stilwell brought her daughter home, she happened to be between dogs, but she didn't forget about Angelica, the cat.

"My husband carried the baby in, and I went to greet my cat," she said.

Stilwell advises, "Start out by exposing your pet to the idea of you carrying around a strange bundle in your arms by using a doll. Talk to the doll as you would a baby."

And begin to teach your pet the "rules." The pet can sniff at the bundle in your arms, but jumping up is not allowed. And give your dog or cat praise for an appropriately relaxed response.

"Often, pets get upset about the high-pitched wailing of a crying baby," adds Stilwell.

Months before the baby arrives is the ideal time to prepare the pet. Download crying baby sounds and play them at a very low level. If the pet is totally unperturbed, pump up the volume slightly. If a pet is shows any anxiety, tone things down.

Eventually, you can play the crying baby audio so loud it may bother you more than your pet as the dog or cat eats dinner, creating a positive association. A fussing baby will ultimately become your pet's dinner-time music.

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