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How to Prepare a Dog for a New Baby

Q. We're expecting a baby soon. What's the best way to introduce our dog to our newborn?

A.
The family pet is a territorial creature, and he'd prefer to maintain his status as your one and only "child" and retain all the affection that Alpha Mommy and Daddy have to give. Resentment, as we know from Greek tragedies and daytime talk shows, breeds bad blood. So your goal should be to get Fido to feel as devoted to your baby as you do. (Think Nana in Peter Pan.)

One common practice among parents is to bring home their newborn's undershirt for the pet to smell before the baby comes home. Animals get to know people and things through scent, and so, in a way, this is a first meeting. There's sense in this, but, cautions dog trainer Jan Wall, "Don't let your pet mouth or play with the baby's undershirt. You don't want him thinking that your baby's clothing, or your baby, is his plaything. And never leave your newborn alone with your dog, period."

I've heard of some new-parent dog owners going a more extreme route: On homecoming day, they place their newborn in her infant seat on the porch or in the driveway and, while watching from a nearby hiding place, let the dog "find" the baby. The dog gets to feel as if he's the one doing the introducing -- Owner, meet the new creature I just found outside -- and, in effect, he adopts the baby. Sounds clever, and it's apparently worked for some lucky families, but I'd recommend doing this only with your canine on a leash that keeps him at a safe distance from your infant. Show your love for dog and baby by keeping them both secure.

Trisha Thompson is a contributing editor to PARENTING magazine and a former editor-in-chief of BabyTalk.

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