Many of us have pets who are as much a part of the family as the newest member you’re about to bring home. It’s important to make sure your pets understand this new person, that they grow to love this new person, and most important, that they know this new person is not a chew toy.

Dogs need to be introduced gingerly. When it’s time for baby to come home, have your partner go in first. Make sure he gets a big warm hello when he’s greeted, so he knows everything is okay. If he’s taken by the scruff and sent away as soon as you walk through the door, he’ll think he’s done something wrong, or worse, he’ll think the newborn is a threat. Have some treats handy to keep the excitement and anxiety to a minimum. Try not to be nervous. He’ll pick up on that, and again view the infant as a threat.

Don’t shoo the dog away, but make sure your partner has a good hold on his collar. He’s going to want to know what this thing is that you’ve brought home. If the dog seems calm, it’s okay to let him sniff your baby, but do it intermittently. Give him praise for being a good boy, and give him a treat. If he gets too close, try not to scold him. This could cause resentment in the animal and produce some seriously unwanted behavior. Above all else, try to stay calm. If you're calm, he'll be calm, too.

Cats are a little different. They can get downright spiteful if their lives are interrupted. It’s important to introduce new schedules and other changes very gradually. It’s best to start her on a schedule that you’ll keep after baby arrives. This involves some pre-planning. Be consistent. Feed her at the same time every day, scoop her box at the same time every day, and try to give her some one-on-one attention at the same time every day. But don’t overdo it. If the cat is getting extra attention, then she’ll feel a pretty huge letdown once the baby comes. Open one or two new baby items and leave them in the vicinity of your cat’s food dish for a few days. She’ll associate approaching new things with the reward of food.

To get your cat used to the baby’s jolting movements, start playing “poke the kitty” before the baby comes. Mimic the baby’s movements by gently poking and patting the cat. Reward her with a treat for putting up with it. Getting her used to these behaviors will make for a much smoother transition when the baby arrives.

This is a huge change in your life, and it will also have a huge impact on your pets’ lives as well. Introducing them thoughtfully and carefully will result in a stronger relationship between you and your pet, but more important will be the bond that develops between your pet and your child.