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When Baby Meets Doggy

For years, your big puppy was your only baby and he received your undivided love and attention. Soon he'll have to share it with another. You're expecting a baby and, naturally, you're concerned about how your dog and child will get along. How will your dog react to this new arrival in his home? Will he be jealous of the baby or, worse, aggressive towards it? Or will he hopefully sense the importance that the infant has in your "pack" and act as a gentle and loyal protector?

Here are a few tips to help you help your dog through the difficult transition from "only child" to "older sibling."

Before the Baby is Born

– Socialize your dog with babies and small children as soon and as often as possible. Invite your brave friends with newborns over to meet your dog. This will help him get accustomed to some of the sights, smells, and activities associated with babies that he'll be experiencing in the months to come.

– Let your dog check out the baby's room so that he can get used to the new furniture, toys, clothes, etc.

– Buy a baby-sized doll or teddy bear and carry it around in your arms like you would the real thing. Talk to this "baby" and fuss over it so that your dog realizes that the thing you're holding is something important.

– Buy a couple of your dog's favorite toys and put them away until you bring the baby home. If your dog gets too excited when he first meets the baby, give him the toys to distract him. Also, by presenting him with these gifts, you'll make the baby's arrival a happy experience for him and help him learn that the baby's presence is a positive thing.

– Arrange for someone to care for your dog in your home while you're in the hospital. It's important to keep your pet's schedule as close to normal as possible (same feeding times, same walking schedule, etc.) to avoid unnecessarily stressing him out.

When the Baby Arrives

– While you're still in the hospital, have someone bring something of the baby's home for the dog to smell (e.g., a blanket, shirt, or diaper). This way, when you first bring the baby home, it won't be totally unfamiliar to the dog.

– Make sure that you introduce your dog to the baby. Let him lick the baby's face and hands if you like but never paw at it or push it with its nose. This helps establish the baby as a new member of your pack. If you try to exclude your dog from the baby, you may unknowingly teach him that your new arrival is an "intruder." Thinking that he is protecting the established pack members, your dog may attack the infant.

– Devote the same amount of time and attention, if not more, to your dog as you did before the baby came. A neglected pet may revert to immature destructive behavior because, in his eyes, negative attention is better than no attention at all.

– Include the dog in as many family activities as possible. If you're taking the baby out in its stroller, bring the dog along for the walk. If you have any doubts about your ability to handle both dog and baby at the same time, ask another individual to walk the dog with you.

– Above all, never leave your baby unattended with your dog, no matter how well-trained he is or how good of a temperament he has. There is always the danger of suffocation if the dog decided to lie down on or near the baby, and the unpredictable actions of a newborn could easily startle the dog, causing him to bite in self-defense.

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