For many pet owners, your animal was your first baby. Engaged couples and young married couples often undertake the responsibility of pet ownership before starting their families. This leads to an often tense situation when it’s time to bring a new baby home from the hospital. Your dog may feel jealous, confused or worried by the change in the family dynamic.

If you’re bringing home a new baby, take a blanket from the hospital that has been used by the baby to your pet. Allow them to sniff it and get used to the baby’s scent before you introduce them to the baby. You may even want to put the blanket in your dog's bed. Baby blankets are the right size to fit into dog crates and other small areas. Talking to your dog can also help. Use soothing tones and tell them you’re bringing home a new baby. Pet them and give them treats while you discuss the changes. They will begin to associate the tone of your voice and the word baby with praise, love and attention, making them less likely to misbehave when they meet the source of the new word.

It's important to stress that no matter how sweet and friendly your pet is, you should never allow a situation where your pet is alone with the baby. While you couldn't imagine your pet harming your child, you should only allow adult supervised interaction until your child is old enough to be more in control of the situation and can alert you to behavior that is getting too rough. Pet gates are ideal for containing your pet and limiting his or her access to the baby. A dog gate is also helpful if you’re introducing new children to the pet as it not only keeps the pet away from the kids, but it also keeps the kids away from the pet until they understand how to interact with the animal.

When introducing your pets to older children, it’s important to discuss with the children how to treat the pet before they are brought around it. Explain that pets don’t like to have their fur pulled and that they must be treated gently. Practice petting a stuffed animal to get the hang of it. When they meet the pet, they may get nervous. Remain close as the pet will be able to pick up on their nervousness and they may lash out. It may be helpful to keep the animal on a leash during the first meeting to avoid any dangerous situations.

If your pet seems shy around the new children, have the kids offer treats or other enticements to the pet. You want the pet to feel positively about the children. By praising the pet and offering them a treat when they let the children pet them, you are telling the dog that being nice to the kids is the behavior you are looking for. A favorite toy or a special food item are great ways to get the animals to approach the children. If the weather is nice and the animal is a dog, letting the kids throw some balls outside for the dog to chase can show the pet how much fun kids can be. Both the child and the dog are sure to have a great time playing and bonding.

Again, when you have children and babies in the house, it's very important that you don't just let the dog roam free and have free access to the children and babies. The use of a dog crate or teaching your dog the "place" command make it easy to put the dog away or send him or her to their place when they are getting too excited, become tense from all the activity or you know you will not be able to keep a constant eye on any interactions. One word of caution if you depend on your dog obeying the "place" command, you should still use a pet gate or child safety gate as a back up or safeguard, just in case the dog doesn't do as you expect and decides to try and join the action.

Introducing pets to babies and children can be exciting and stressful. Taking the time to make the introductions the proper way is essential to creating a mutual understanding between the children and the pet that will hopefully lead to a life-long friendship.

    

Pet gates and dog crates -- a great way to keep little ones and pets separated when unsupervised.