Nursery. Diapers. Changing table. Toys. You have nine months to get your house and yourself prepared for your new baby. But don’t forget to spend a little time getting your dog or cat ready, too.

While you’re probably equally nervous and excited about bringing a new infant into the world (and into your home), your pet has no idea what to expect and may be just plain nervous when the new tenant arrives. The trick is to get him on board with the changes to come before bringing home your bundle of joy. Try these tricks. 

Get your pet used to baby smells and sounds 

Babies sound, smell and look a lot different from adults — or even kids, for that matter. Do what you can to get your pet used to the all-out assault that’s about to hit his senses.

  • Invite friends to bring their infants to your home so your pet can get used to a real baby.
  • Play recordings (check YouTube) of babies crying, cooing and making all kinds of other baby noises.
  • Carry a swaddled doll around during the day. Feed and rock the doll, change his diaper. Put the doll in a stroller when you walk your dog. This will help get your pet used to the idea that there’s a new kid in town who requires your attention.
  • Unwrap your baby supplies and toys and let your pet check them out a couple at a time. If your cat or dog starts to play with one of the baby’s toys, say “no” and turn her attention to one of her own toys.
  • Use the baby’s shampoo, lotion and powder on yourself so your pet can get used to the smells.

Teach your dog some manners 

If your dog doesn’t have many basic obedience skills now’s the time to teach him. Simple commands such as “sit,” “stay” and “down” can help you control your dog around the baby. It’s key to have your dog respond when you give verbal commands. That way you won’t always have to have him restrained around your new baby.

Consider enrolling him in a group obedience class or working one-on-one with a trainer. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals suggests that you teach your dog these skills:

  • Sit
  • Lie down
  • Stay
  • Wait at doors
  • Settle
  • Leave it
  • Drop it
  • Greeting people politely (not jumping up)
  • Coming when called

Mimic new schedules

If you have an idea how your routine will change once the new baby arrives, slowly make those changes now. For example, if you plan to nap in the afternoons, take a time out now so your pet knows what to expect. The same goes for your dog’s walk times. If you’re going to walk him earlier or later, gradually start making those adjustments. 

If your pet is used to a very consistent schedule, change things up now. Having a baby can make life a little less planned. Get your pet used to a more flexible routine, such as eating within a one- to two-hour window instead of every morning promptly at 7. If you’d prefer to keep your dog or cat on a strict feeding schedule, consider an automatic feeder that operates on a timer. 

Make new rules now

Don’t change all the rules the second you walk in the door with your newborn. If your pet will no longer be allowed to sleep in your bed, climb on the furniture or go in the room that will be the nursery, set those new rules way before the baby arrives.

Keep the nursery door closed or install a pet gate (a very tall one if you have a cat). You may want to place a pet bed just outside the door so that your furry friend can watch what’s going on through the gate while you’re inside. 

If the nursery won’t be off limits and you have a cat:

  • Place a cat bed or cat condo in a corner of the room. Place treats in the bed to encourage her to hang out there. (Once your baby is mobile, leaving pet treats out where he can reach them is a choking hazard.)

If the nursery won’t be off limits and you have a dog: 

  • Place a dog bed in a corner of the room. Give your dog treats to encourage him to rest there. (Again, once your baby can crawl, don’t leave pet treats where your baby can get to them.)
  • If your dog won’t stay in his bed, tether him with a leash to a heavy piece of furniture when you want him in the nursery with you.

Watch the attention

You may be tempted to shower your pet with lots of love and hugs now. But that will only make things harder when the baby comes and you have less time to spend with your four-legged friend. Try to have random short periods every day when you can focus on your pet with cuddling and playtime. Give him less attention the rest of the day.

Arrange for doggie care

If you know you won’t be able to give your pet the attention she needs, consider hiring a dog walker or using doggy daycare, at least for the first few weeks after the baby arrives. Use the dog walker or daycare service a few times before the baby is due so your dog can get used to the change in routine.