Baby sleeping on top of a labrador(Photo: Tara Romasanta\Getty Images)

Nothing brings more joy to a family than the arrival of a new baby. That is, unless you're the old baby, and you happen to be covered in fur and have four legs. Dogs and cats can have a tough time adjusting to the presence of an attention-demanding infant. Just as you might explain to a little boy that he's about to become an older brother, so too must you somehow "explain" to your pet the arrival of the baby. Unfortunately, we can't just take our cats and dogs out to ice cream and have a long talk about how life will be changing. But with some simple pre-baby preparations, we can help our pets acclimate to the new nursery environment. Here's everything you need to get the pet-baby relationship started off on the right foot -- and paw.

Before you bring home the bundle of joy
The good news is that most of what's required for a successful pet-baby introduction can be done well before you toss the suitcase in the car and head to the hospital. You might want to start with one of the easiest steps: getting your pets used to the new sights, smells and sounds. Dr. Jules Benson, VP of Veterinary Services at Petplan Insurance, says that, "Dogs have difficulty perceiving very young children as humans. They smell and sound different, and many dogs will see them as a small, sound making creature." As such, Dr. Benson recommends putting some talcum powder or baby oil on your skin to let the dog get used to that smell, and play with rattles and other noisy new toys that are about to become part of the pet's reality. Basically, you want to simulate the nursery environment -- anything that's new should be introduced ahead of time. Dr. Benson even recommends that you "take the dog out on a walk with the stroller. Some dogs react to things that roll."