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Ask Dr. Sears: Jealous Pet a Danger to Baby?

Q. Our dog seems to be jealous of our new baby, whining and even barking when we're tending to her. We've had our pet for over five years, and he's very much a part of our family, too. How can we ensure that our newborn and dog can peacefully  -- and safely  -- co-exist?


A. Just like humans, dogs are capable of strong emotional feelings. The pet jealousy that you are experiencing is much like sibling rivalry. After all, your dog has been the "baby" up until now. Without proper introduction, your pet is unlikely to welcome this little person who drains all the time and attention that was previously showered on him. Here are a few ways for your baby and dog to get used to each other:

Get your pet used to baby's scent. Dogs are very conscious of new scents, be it from another animal or person in the house, and with a newborn around, there will certainly be a lot of changes in the air. Once your dog gets used to the scent of the new baby, Fido will feel that his domain is less threatened. Let your dog sleep next to a blanket or piece of baby's clothing so he can get a few whiffs.

Spread the love. As soon as you begin feeding or rocking baby, invite your pet to share in the attention. While tending to your baby with one hand, pat your pet with the other. Think of this as a warm-up, should you choose to expand your family when your firstborn becomes a toddler. Whenever you take a walk with your baby walk the dog, too. Having the baby in a carrier and your dog on a leash may seem like a lot of action to juggle at the same time, but eventually everyone will get used to this moving trio, and enjoy it. In fact, when your dog sees you getting ready to begin the walk with your baby, he'll automatically want to join the action.

Reserve private time for pet. Following a similar recipe for sibling rivalry, try to spend some one-on-one play time with your dog, or have another family member do it. That way, your dog won't feel that he's being neglected in favor of the new baby.

Pet-proof your home. While it's unusual for a dog to attack an infant, it's still wise not to take any chances. You certainly don't want to leave your pet and baby unsupervised. Also, you have to be vigilant once your baby becomes mobile, as baby crawling to the dog's feeding dish may provoke him to anger. And, as a precaution against sharing germs, the dog should not be permitted to chew on baby's toys or clothing.

Hopefully, these tips wil help baby and pet live happily and safely together!

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