Dogs, Cats, and Twins. Oh My! How To Introduce Pets to Newborns
My name isn’t Dorothy and my dog isn’t Toto, BUT I might be able to help you create a healthy introduction between your pets and new twins based on my experience.
My husband and I have 2 dogs. One is a 12-year-old Yorkie Poo named Pearl and the other is a 7-year-old Boston Terrior Mix named Harper. Prior to being pregnant with twins, our dogs were seriously convinced they, too, were humans. We are all guilty of loving our pets as if they’re our actual babies. Some of us let them eat pieces of our meals, sit on chairs next to us at the dinner table, sleep on (or even IN) our beds, dress them in clothes, etc. And let’s be honest, we all talk to our pets like they can understand us.
Meet our pups, Pearl and Harper!
When we found out the twins were on the way, the effect it would have on our dogs became a concern. As every pet has different personalities, we happen to have one sassy dog (Pearl) and one easy-going dog (Harper). That said, we were REALLY worried about Pearl becoming feisty with (or, Heaven forbid, even bite) the twins. With Pearl’s spirited ways of acting like a Queen Bee, we envisioned all sorts of horrific things happening. In order to prevent this, we slowly acclimated the dogs to the twins using the steps listed below… And it worked!!
Nowadays, the twins and dogs get along beautifully. Harper doesn’t bother them and Pearl is shockingly protective of them. When they were really little, Pearl even acted like the twins were her OWN babies (and she still doesn’t let strangers get near her beloved little ones)! It couldn’t have been a smoother transition.
Based on my experience, here is what I did and my recommendations when easing your dogs or cats into meeting your newborn twins:
1. Expose your pets to baby-related items BEFORE the twins are born.
My husband and I actually had fun with this one before the kids arrived. We put the dogs in the car seats, cribs, stroller, etc. and took some funny pictures. While it was highly entertaining, we also believe it was highly beneficial. The goal was to remove some shock value for the dogs as early on as we could. With expecting multiples, we had a lot of baby gear laying around the house for them to sniff out.
2. Have someone familiar take care of your pets at his/her house when you go into labor.
When we left to deliver the babies, the dogs stayed at my in-laws’ house. We wanted to keep the volume of newness to a minimum and this was a familiar place for them as they often play over there.
3. Let your pets sniff the twins’ scents on different items (blankets, onesies, your clothes, etc.) before meeting.
Once the twins were born, my in-laws came to the hospital those first couple of days to hold the babies. As a result, the babies’ scents were left on their clothing. At the end of the day when my in-laws went home, Pearl and Harper were able to collect information about their new family members.
4. Schedule a brief introduction once the twins are home.
After we returned from the hospital, we waited 48 hours before having the dogs over for a “meet and greet.” In part, this delay was due to our own exhaustion in combination with the goal to acclimate ourselves with the babies. As we didn’t want to overstimulate the dogs into a barking symphony, we kept the visit short (~30 minutes). We also gave both dogs a treat to keep it as positive of an experience as we could for them.
5. One or two weeks later, bring the pets back home for good, if able.
Now that they’ve smelled their scents and met them in person in small doses, the dogs should be a bit calmer when around the twins again. Familiarity is key! For us, this is when the dogs started treating the babies as their own family. The dogs even started snuggling with them!
6. Try to keep your pet's previous routines the same as much as possible.
Dogs and cats are creatures of habit. If they still sleep in the same spots, get the same food around the same times, etc., then they will likely adjust better in this acute period.
7. Find one-on-one time for you and your pets.
Even if it’s just throwing the ball for 3 minutes in between feeds, do it! Personally, our one-on-one time with the dogs nowadays is when we are winding down at night. The dogs sleep with us in our bedroom and that gives us time to focus on just them.
8. Keep your pets’ claws trimmed.
You don’t want any accidental scratches on those fresh faces, do you? For time and energy’s sake, this is something you could delegate to a family member or friend (as you’ll likely be busy in the throes of twinhood mayhem).
9. Consider professional behavioral training for your pets if you are still concerned.
As our dogs adjusted very well by following the above steps, we thankfully didn’t have to go this route. For those extra aggressive pets, though, this might be necessary to keep a healthy home environment for you and your twins.
Would love to hear about other people’s experiences when introducing their fur babies to their twin babies. Feel free to share!