When Jane Deming created a workshop to help expecting parents prepare their pets for the arrival of newborns, she never imagined it would go nationwide and be held in 150 shelters across the country.
Now, Deming will run the Prepping Pets For Babies Workshop in Warwick through a partnership with K-9 Connection.
The workshop will take place on Friday night at the K-9 Connection facility at 60 Minnesota Ave. from 6 to 9 p.m. It costs $40 per couple. No pets or children are allowed to attend. “We like to have the parents’ undivided attention,” said Deming.
The program came to be eight years ago, when Deming learned a family dog had killed a 5-day-old baby in Rhode Island and, as a result, the dog was put down. She says she had a “visceral reaction.” Along with animal behaviorist Katenna Jones, Deming created the workshop to help expecting parents get their pets “baby-ready.”
Deming had given up the workshops five years ago because her position as the American Humane Association national director of education required her to travel. However, due to downsizing, she only consults for AHA and has more time for workshops.
The Warwick-based K-9 Connection reached out to Deming, who now owns her own animal welfare and humane education-consulting firm, to see if she would be willing to restart the program for them. Deming said expecting parents were contacting the facility looking for ways to properly introduce their pet to babies or young children.
“People don’t realize that, to animals, babies look like and sound like a wounded animal,” said Deming. “The animal isn’t prepared for all of the changes.”
Deming explained that the workshop with K-9 Connection will occur once a month. The program lasts three hours; the first hour is a group conversation about general habits and behaviors that may change when a baby comes into the picture and affects pets. After that, Deming will discuss specifics with each participant to ensure the couple knows how best to acclimate their pet to a new baby or young child.
For future events, Deming will be joined by her former colleague Jones, but on Friday night K-9 Connection owner and trainer Teri Desrosies will assist Deming.
And Deming says her workshop is necessary. While conducting research to start the workshop, she found that the CDC reported between five and 10 children were killed each year by family pets. Also, while working at the Providence Animal Rescue League eight years ago, Deming conducted a survey and discovered 16 percent of animals were turned into the shelter because owners were concerned about the pet harming a newborn or young child.
“[Having a child] doesn’t mean you have to get rid of your pet,” said Deming. “You just have to be diligent.”
She says that the workshop helps pet owners realize there are ways to make a house baby- and pet-safe.
Deming explained that having a baby causes a large shift in the household routine. Pets need to be prepared for changes in sleep schedules and be prepared to see certain areas of the home, such as a nursery, now off limits.
One area of training that Deming discusses is the “unconscious attention” pet owners give to their pets. Deming explained that many pet owners reach down to pet their animals or talk to their animals throughout the day without realizing it. When a baby comes into the picture, a lot of that attention is now given to the baby and the animal feels neglected.
Deming says it is helpful to prepare pets by consciously stopping that behavior and setting aside quality time instead.
Deming often hears the excuse that some pets are not a threat; they are too sweet or too lazy to ever do anything to harm a child. Deming says it is better to be prepared.
“Cats and dog are natural predators, no matter the size, age or personality,” said Deming. “They see the baby as a thing, not a baby.”
Deming’s workshop covers all animals, including cats, dogs, rabbits, lizards, snakes, etc.
Deming hopes that her program will help reduce the pet population in area shelters, which has been growing.
“Rather than have animals needlessly put in shelters, why don’t we nip this in the bud while the parents are expecting,” said Deming.
Upcoming dates for the Prepping Pets for Babies Workshop are June 14, July 18 and Aug. 23, with more set for the fall. For more information or to register, call K-9 Connection at 737-2870 or visit their website at www.k-9connection.net.