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Home > Pet News and Articles > Preparing Your Pooch for a New Addition

Preparing Your Pooch for a New Addition
Article By: Glenn Redmond

The relationship between dogs and children has been glamorized by our pop culture since the invention of television. Who can forget the tremendous bond between Timmy and Lassie?

Many commercials today use this heartwarming image to sell products by portraying a child and the family dog frolicking in the background as the product is fore front across the tube. Many families across our country enjoy this ideal relationship between their dogs and children, but many do not.

Unfortunately, children receive a disproportionate number of dog bites, accounting for 80% of all reported incidents. Most bites happen at home or in a familiar place with the vast majority of biting dogs belonging to the victim's family or friends.

It would be wrong to assume that dogs come pre-programmed to like children. Good relationships take time, effort and understanding to grow and thrive. With more couples delaying having children, dogs are becoming the first addition to the family unit. When a child arrives, we must not assume that even the friendliest dogs are automatically going to embrace the new bundle of joy. We must be well prepared to ensure a healthy family dynamic for years to come.

Leadership is essential in promoting the development of healthy family relationships. Dogs are great leaders and great followers, comfortable in either role. However, in order to cultivate healthy family dynamics, it is fundamental that dogs be followers and that leadership responsibilities lie with the owners. Ensure this long before the baby arrives by having the dog "work for a living."

Using obedience for the dog to attain its wishes puts you in charge of the household. Remember, a free ride often equals a poor attitude. Make sure you have rules in place for the furniture. A dog that lazes on the couch or bed all day may be resentful of a baby's invasion. Ensure your dog does not have a problem getting off when asked. With this respect in place, expose your dog to as many children as possible, making each encounter a positive and pleasant experience. A dog who has never met a child has no idea on how to react to them. Have friends bring their well behaved children by, or pop into their place from time to time. Children should remain calm and gentle and foster a positive association by offering the dog special treats. It is a good idea to keep the dog on leash during initial meetings.

Purchase baby toys ahead of time and practice obedience around them. Teach your dog to leave these items alone. It will be an exercise in frustration when these toys are covered with the morning breakfast and you attempt to teach your dog for the first time. And remember, do not give your dog a stuffed toy to play with and wonder why he's tearing apart the baby's favorite teddy.

Promote calmness inside by stopping any rambunctious behavior and wild games in the house. Most dogs do not care who's in the way when chasing their favorite ball. A dog pushing past your leg to get a toy can be annoying, but extremely harmful to a little child.

A good preventative training routine should involve emulating baby behaviors. Gently start to grab your dogs' fur, wiggling it gently as your praise and offer a treat. Start slowly, increasing in quickness and firmness as you progress. This exercise is meant to be fun and not to cause your dog pain in any way. By the time the baby arrives, your dog will view this grabbing as fun and not a threat.

Contrary to popular belief, dogs do not like hugs. I would discourage this behavior with a child, but prepare the dog just in case. Start with short gentle hugs, releasing quickly and offering a treat. Increase your duration as time goes on, remembering to make this activity fun for the dog.

Help prepare the dog for baby's arrival by gradually changing what is now routine. Expectant parents often want to cuddle and shower the family dog with attention, feeling that once the baby arrives, time will be limited. Like us, dogs get used to luxuries. When this attention suddenly shifts to the child, the stage is now being set for competition between the pair.

Eliminate this competition by easing the dog into these radical changes and including them in routine baby activities. Bring the dog along for diaper changes, for example. Invite the dog into the baby's room and have them hold a down-stay while the baby is being changed. Release the dog with a treat and attention, making the activity inclusive and rewarding rather than allowing any resentment to develop.

Expectant parents can make the classic image of the special relationship between dogs and children a reality.

Put your plan together and start well before your due date. Taking a proactive rather than a reactive approach in introducing the new addition will prepare the family dog for the baby's arrival and sow the seeds that will enable that unmistakable bond to flourish.

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