Growing Family

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Whether you’re starting out with a kid who’s begging for a pet or you’re introducing that pet you’ve been babying to your bundle of joy, we have a list of things for you and your family to think about.

Considerations

Don’t surprise your child with a pet. Wait until the child expresses consistent and genuine interest in caring for a long-term addition to the family.

Honestly evaluate your child’s age and relative maturity. There’s no hard-and-fast rule about which pets will work for a child of a certain age; you will be the best judge of the child’s willingness to be responsible for a new pet. Think carefully about the personality of both the animal and the child when making a match.

Research possible types of pets well ahead of time. Check on allergy concerns, and be sure you or other members of the family would be willing to take over the animal’s care if your child grows tired of his/her responsibilities.

Set caretaking expectations in advance. Decide if it is going to be a family pet or if the primary responsibility will fall on one child in particular. Unless your family already has animals around, it’s probably a good idea to start small.

Take advantage of the opportunity to turn the exciting endeavor of acquiring a pet into a teachable moment. There are a variety of local rescue organizations that do incredible work with all varieties of pets. AustinRescue.com is a good place to start your search.

Always remember why you are bringing the animal into your home; for most people, this reason is based in companionship. Conversations are a great start, but actions certainly speak louder. The best way to teach your child how to appropriately interact with a pet is to respectfully handle each animal you meet. Working with your child to imagine the animal’s point of view will help them to empathize with a new pet. Flip to G Paws page 28 for species-specific information on.

Bringing In Baby

Introducing a new baby to a home that once only had four-legged kids can be cause for some anxiety or at least some adjustments. Most often this adjustment happens for dog people, but the same ideas will hold true for any pet that is used to being your priority.

First things first: Objectively assess any training or behavior issues you may have been ignoring with your pet. If he often nibbles gently on your hands, swats, or jumps, you’ll want to dedicate some time to redirecting that behavior. This would be a perfect time to enroll in a training class; it will help you feel confident of your train- ing skills and will strengthen the bond with your pet. Get him used to nail trims and waiting on the floor to be invited up onto a couch or bed where you will soon be cradling a baby.

Sprinkling baby powder on a doll and calling it by the baby’s name will help your pet get used to the different smells associated with this new member of the family.

You will want to mimic baby noises and activities and make a plan for integrating your pup into these new routines. Bring a stroller on walks, turn on any mechanical swings or toys and put up a baby gate in the nursery doorway. Play recordings of a baby crying, and be sure to demonstrate a calm reaction to this alarming sound. Rock the doll and turn off the crying. Let the dog see you and the “baby” rocking and relaxing, then give him a treat for sitting calmly out- side the gate, not barking or whining.

If you have friends with babies, invite them to your home where you can supervise a practice introduction between your dog and a baby. You’ll want to let the dog gently sniff the baby while it is being held a respectful distance away. Be sure to praise and treat your pup for being sweet and gentle!

Finally, plan ahead to make sure your pet is properly taken care of while you are away giving birth.

 

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Meg Haley holds a Master of Liberal Arts from St. Edward's where she took a close look at the way stories are an integral part of our society. From the tales of a good meal to a 30-second television commercial or a wordless ad, stories are ubiquitous. She spent several years writing plays before branching out to other genre, of which writing for L Style G Style is one of her favorites. She and her partner Machin are the proud parents of Idgie and their four-leggeds Moby, Soda and George.

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