Relationship between Pets and Baby

Advice on introducing your dogs or cats to your baby.

baby-dog

 

Original question:

"I am hoping to get some advice on facilitating a smooth relationship between my 9 month old baby and my 6 year old dog. Now that my daughter is crawling, I find myself growing concerned that she may unintentionally provoke the dog with her grabbing or reaching. My dog has no history of biting any one (child or adult) but I can tell by the look in her eye that she is wary of the baby's advances. Up to know I have made sure that the baby is gentle when touching the dog and have closely supervised all their interactions. For the most part, the dog stays out of the baby's path, but I can see that that is going to become increasingly difficult the more mobile my baby becomes.

How have other people approached baby-dog relations? Has anyone hired a trainer they would recommend? I'd really appreciate some help navigating this territory."

 

Important note from PSP: The best option is to always talk to a qualified trainer about how to help your dog adjust to a new baby, or to help your dog and kids adjust to each other in a healthy, fun way.  When looking for a trainer, it is highly important to find a trainer with the proper credentials, specifically, one that lists CPDT, CCBC, or CAAB after their names.
For a list of recommended trainers by PSP members, please go HERE.

 

Summary of replies :

 

From one parent who went through something similar:

"You are wise to be concerned. I have been dealing with similar issues [with my trainer].

As someone who has gone through a very hard time with my 9 year old cat and my 3 children, there is the happiness of the animal to consider as well. It's all good and nice to be told your pet should stay with you because that's who they know, but a house with children is not always the best environment for an animal who previously has been the sole "baby" of the house. It has been an agonizing decision, but in our case (and i've seen a friend with a dog go through this as well as well) I truly believe that our pet is unhappy surrounded by such chaos and energy that our 3 children have brought to our household (re; Peeing EVERYWHERE but the litter, extreme crying, etc..), besides the stress it has caused us. Of course, it is the responsibility of the owner to find a capable and loving home if you have to move your pet out. It is not an easy decision, I believe that pet ownership is a commitment to be honored. But in certain cases, moving an animal to a home without kids can be in the best interest of the animal.

It all depends on the dog and the kid. I don't let my 3 y/o daughter pull my 8 y/o dog's ears and tail, etc., but I know 100% for certain that all my dog does and would ever do is walk away if/when something on this order happens. The dog is intelligent, sentient, and a lover not a fighter (unless you're another dog, in which case, she will often pretend to be tough). I would trust my dog in a room with any kid. However, there are MANY kids who need help learning how to be around animals--so I wouldn't necessarily trust any kid to be in a room with my dog. Generally speaking, it's not only the kid who needs protection!

They say you must never leave a dog and child alone in the same room together, and I agree with that. Dogs get confused about whether a child is an alpha or a beta, but mostly they try to control them as if they were a beta, like a puppy in a pack, by nips and growls and grazes, but if they get ahold of a baby like that, there are different results than if they were a puppy, obviously. When my first child became mobile, it was a difficult transition with my standard poodle. He growled at her a couple of times, and then once he became use to the fact that she was mobile he accepted it and didn't do it again. But we always watched him carefully.

I think it helps the whole situation if you always reinforce that you are the alpha of the pack in all situations, which means things like always walking out the door in front of your dog, walking the dog in heel and slightly behind you until you decide to let him sniff a little, not giving him table scraps (especially right from the table), making sure he obeys every commend, etc. The Dog Whisperer book is a great resource for understanding how the dog's mind works. They say you must never leave a dog and child alone in the same room together, and I agree with that. Dogs get confused about whether a child is an alpha or a beta, but mostly they try to control them as if they were a beta, like a puppy in a pack, by nips and growls and grazes, but if they get ahold of a baby like that, there are different results than if they were a puppy, obviously. When my first child became mobile, it was a difficult transition with my standard poodle. He growled at her a couple of times, and then once he became use to the fact that she was mobile he accepted it and didn't do it again. But we always watched him carefully.

I think it helps the whole situation if you always reinforce that you are the alpha of the pack in all situations, which means things like always walking out the door in front of your dog, walking the dog in heel and slightly behind you until you decide to let him
sniff a little, not giving him table scraps (especially right from the table), making sure he obeys every commend, etc. The Dog Whisperer book is a great resource for understanding how the dog's mind works."

 

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"I'm delighted to hear that dog owners are working hard with trainers and other experts to insure a smooth(er) transition for pet and couple into family/baby-dom. my heart always breaks when I hear or read about people who give up their previously beloved pet because a baby is coming/has arrived and it's "too much work". i had friends tell me that i'd "change my mind," that my "love would change" for my pet once baby (twins) arrived. nothing could have been further from the truth. pets enable children to see a world in which people co-exist with animals, responsibility is eventually learned, and love and compassion grows even stronger for all involved. plus, the "fear factor" is lessened or erased right off the bat. obviously a child born with allergies is another story and often forces parents to make difficult choices.

 

From another thread about cats & babies....

 

ORIGINAL QUESTION :

"Looking for advise on how to introduce/deal with somewhat feisty cats (with claws) to newborn babies?"

 

Summary of Replies:

 

"I have ALWAYS kept the cats nails clipped short because it just takes one swipe. My cats also really like to be warm so I used a crib tent over their crib to keep the cats OUT. I have heard to have your husband/partner bring back fabric/clothes with your babies scent on it. We didn't do that. Baby's erratic jerky movements were enough to keep the cats at a safe distance. Now the boys and cats are pretty good pals. My boys are very gentle with animals and they know how to carefully hold them.

On the web, check out "the cat initiative" (has  a page on this specific question, as well as tons of great info)  and "veterinary partner" (for other veterinary and behavior issues) for helpful hints. Both sites are VERY well respected.

The cats were really afraid at first, and would tentatively sniff the new "cat-sized person", but would then run away. Their jealousy has really been displayed more with his stuff - they love to get in his bed, his carseat, his bouncer, anything they think they can reclaim for the cats. Recently, one cat lets him pet him (the old one, believe it or not), although we have to hold his hand to prevent petting from turning into grabbing. The only advice I would really give is to make sure the cats and baby aren't together unsupervised.

My large female cat with a history of questionable sanity and enormous talon-like claws showed very little interest in my son when he was first born. I did a closely monitored introduction early on (holding him while he was calm and allowing her to sniff him while I spoke gently to both of them). She did show some concern a few months later when he began teething and would cry at night - basically she would meow and run to him, then to my husband and me, but still never showed aggression. And now that he is 7 months and beginning to crawl, he will pursue her, but she just runs away. I have always tried to give her plenty of affection, both before my son's birth and after, and I don't allow him to harass her excessively. Perhaps this has helped prevent feelings of jealousy in my cat, who has been with me for over ten years.

Our cat sniffs around our 9 month old, and then becomes uninterested. Hopefully as our son gets older, he won't torment her too much! We're doing our best to teach him to be gentle with her. You may want to start with letting the cats have something with the baby's scent on it to get familiar from a distance. Then let the cats sniff the baby by the baby's feet while you're holding him/her to make the connection. 

We have cats with claws (although neither is hugely feisty).  We never did anything special to introduce them to our son (who's now almost 5), other than make sure their routines didn't change and made a point of providing the same kind of lap-time and play-time as before the baby (I think it's probably pretty easy to suddenly have no time for them, which I'm thinking would probably get them quite bent of shape).  It seemed like they were okay with the baby so long as "it" had no impact on their lives - they weren't in the least interested in meeting him, or having any interaction with him, but they did somehow understand that while the baby wasn't another adult, neither was he another cat or dog (i.e. any kind of threat) - resulting in the kind of indifference that only a cat can demonstrate.

 

Instead, they just made a point of being "outraged" and fleeing any time he came into a room they were in and otherwise kept well out of his way.  I don't think my son ever got nearer than 6ft away from them until he was at 3 years old!  Also, in their case, they would more likely demonstrate any ill-will by peeing in our shoes than any overt attack on the baby.  We did have a crib tent to make sure they didn't get in my son's crib, but to be honest, the last place they'd ever be would be in his room when he was in it.  Even now, they never go near his room unless he's out of the apartment. I love that my son is growing up with pets and one of his favorite "chores" is filling up their food bowls.

I have 2 cats, one of each gender, with claws too and a now 6 month old baby.  My female cat insists on being in the middle of everything, and is only friendly (more like possessive) towards me and my husband. She hisses and bats and people that come over. You can imagine my concern.

 

While I was till in the hospital, my husband brought home a blanket and a t-shirt that the baby had worn/was wrapped in. That introduced the smell to the cats. He said they did not hiss, they smelled it and then of course like cats do, they napped on it. They were VERY interested in her crib and bassinet. This was tricky for us. We had the bassinet in our bedroom at first. We keep the doors to the nursery closed, but they still sneak by if we aren't vigilant and make their way to the crib, and now my male likes to curl up on the changing table. So I am always shooing them out of her room. It was hard to keep them out of our room where the bassinet was and I often found them napping in there when my daughter wasn't in it.

 

At first when we brought her home she was asleep in the car seat, so we set it down for the cats to sniff her but were cautious of their reaction.  They sniffed and walked away. Then she woke up and started crying. That was funny, because this is a sound they never heard before so they were kind of confused and they both looked at us like why did you bring that home? Meanwhile when I nursed, the female cat was very interested to come and check us out. To my surprise she did no harm, she sniffs my daughter's head ( like she does ours) and rubbs up against her and snuggles up against her back.

 


Now of course as she has gotten bigger and more aware she is enamoured with the cats and wants to get near them, so that's the next lesson for us. I think when she's a toddler and is able to chase them and pull their tales we will have more to worry about her getting scratched.
My only major advice is do not let the cat snuggle up with baby in the crib because baby could get smothered by the cat or inhale a bunch of fur and suffocate.  This was my biggest fear and so far it has been avoided. I did use a lot of those sticky rolls though to clean out the bassinet when I would catch the cats in there in the early days.

My cat was definitely "feisty".  At least once a day he would attack someone's ankles - most often my husband and once my poor grandma!  I was pretty nervous as we approached the birth of my first child and contemplated purchasing one of those crib tents to keep the cat away from my baby.  In the end someone advised me to wait and see. So I did.  Chalk it up to chemistry but my first child was fairly uninterested in the cat for a long time and he basically kept out of her way - sometimes he would sniff her.  He never bit her or attacked her.  He seemed to know that it was a baby.

 


He did lose his prime position in life though - and that was basically always sitting on me somehow.  He took it in stride and did not hesitate to jump on top of my daughter while she was nursing on the boppy and start to purr.  As long as he didn't hurt her I didn't shoo him away.  I slept with both of them in bed.  And at some point when my daughter was old enough we had to make sure that she knew not to pull his tail or poke him in the belly.  Only once did he reach out to swat at her and his claws were not out.