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Introducing Your New Baby To The Family Dog ..by Bill Knell

Family dogs tend to react in one of two ways to a new baby in the house; They either accept the child and become fiercely protective, or resent the childís presence becoming jealous and a potential threat. Neither reaction is good or helpful for the family involved, so it is important to let your pet know the ground rules for your new arrival and enforce those rules to the extreme.

Dogs exist by visual and scent association. If you watch puppies carefully, you will discover that they tend to stare at family members for long periods of time and sniff them in their private areas just like they would do with other dogs. That behavior allows the pup to recognize immediate family members as those who are part of their circle of trust. It also allows young dogs to easily recognize people who may be strangers or considered a threat.

I have learned by experience with lots of children and a few dogs in our house over the years that the best way to introduce a dog to a new baby is slowly and deliberately. This is not something that can be accomplished by one family member alone. It should be a group activity which would include all the members of your immediate family. Once everyone is gathered together, keep your baby at a safe distance from your pet allowing your dog to get close enough to see and sniff him or her just a bit. This procedure should be repeated a number of times.

Until you are certain about whether your pet has accepted or rejected your new family member, never allow it access to your baby without an adult being present. A child safety gate or other obstruction should be used to keep your dog away from the new babyís room or area. As a rule, large adult dogs or young puppies which tend to be big for their age should never be alone with an infant or toddler. Dogs live by instinct and often misinterpret the actions of babies and small children as provocative or threatening.

The one thing you do not want to do is punish your dog by treating them differently than you did before your new child came along. While some changes are necessary, things like keeping a pet outside more often or denying them the ability to roam most of your house (with the exception of your babyís room or area) are non-starters which may send a negative message to your pet. If your pet begins to believe it is being set aside or punished because of a new baby, that could be a recipe for disaster. It might consider the baby a threat and try to eliminate that threat.

Itís always important to understand that while dogs are intelligent as far as animals go, they are still animals that are not capable of the kinds of thoughts that you and I have. Their thinking process is based on a series of instinctive and preset patterns that do not allow for a lot of grey areas. Something is either a threat to them, or it is not. A good example of this is when your pet seems to react to another neighborhood dog in a negative way, despite the fact that you cannot understand why. They perceive a threat or a danger that you do not see and instinctively react to it.

There are some things that you can do to help this process along. Begin by having your pet thoroughly examined by your veterinarian. A sick dog will almost always react negatively to new people or situations, and you certainly do not want to bring a baby into any environment where there is a sick animal present that might pass an infection or other health problem on to people. Be sure to have your dogís nails trimmed while he or she is there, and ask your vet about training classes that might be available locally to address any behavior problems that may be present in your pet. If your dog has a problem with jumping, that can be a threat to your new baby and should be addressed.

Although it is not a popular solution among many pet owners who might want to breed their dog down the line, it is a fact that spayed or neutered dogs tend to react better to new family members than those which are not altered. You can also help your dog get used to the idea of having a new baby in the house by asking any friends you have with infants to stop by so that your pet can get a look at their child without getting too close. Dogs are unlikely to understand that a baby is a person and a part of your family until you make that clear to them.


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