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A new baby is always cause for excitement, and the buzz surrounding the Duchess of Cambridge’s pregnancy is no exception. While this will be the first child born to Prince William and Kate, the couple first welcomed a furry bundle of joy into their lives a year and a half ago: Lupo, a black Cocker Spaniel. While your new arrival might not be third in line to the throne (and your dog probably wasn't named one of the 50 most fascinating people in Britain), I'll bet that, like Will and Kate and many other doting dog owners expecting their first child, you're hoping for a smooth transition when you bring your newborn home. While this is often a stressful time, both for new parents and household pets, proper precautions and training can help keep everyone (both pets and people) safe and happy.
It’s never too early to start getting your pets ready for the baby's arrival; training should begin months before the big day. In fact, I’ve advised numerous pet owners to prepare their dog for handling a baby in the home even before becoming pregnant.
There are a few specific areas of concern to address before the baby’s homecoming:
1. Assess whether the dog has aggression or fear issues. Take special notice of how your dog acts when you get near his food bowl, chew toys and resting area. Pay attention to any sensitivity your dog shows when being approached by people, especially children and toddlers. Note how your dog acts when he is handled in uncomfortable ways, including tail tugs and grabbing his feet, mouth and ears. If you notice any areas of concern, address these with remedial training and enlist your veterinarian, a certified professional dog trainer or animal behaviorist if needed.
2. Teach proper manners in advance. Jumping up isn't only a nuisance; it becomes a safety hazard when you are holding a baby who can be injured or knocked out of your hands. To prevent your baby from being jostled or stepped on, train your dog to sit for greeting and to come up on furniture or your lap only when he is invited. Loose-leash walking also becomes critical when a stroller comes into the picture. Practice walking your dog with the stroller before the baby comes, and, if needed, get your dog accustomed to anti-pull devices, such as front-clip harnesses and head halters. Practice the "leave it"and "drop it" commands, which will come in handy when getting your dog to leave baby items (like stuffed animals) alone or to drop them if they’ve already been snatched up.
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