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3. Think about pet-proofing as well as baby-proofing. If your dog currently sleeps in your bed, you may need to relocate him; having the dog on the bed may not be ideal if your baby will be sleeping in a bassinet or co-sleeper next to your bed and could possibly be jumped on. Consider crate training your dog or setting up a doggy-proofed area for the times when you will not be able to supervise your dog. Child gates should be set up at the edge of the baby’s room to prevent the dog from going inside unsupervised. Pick gates with vertical slants to help discourage your canine Einstein from trying to climb over them. Move the dog’s food and water bowl out of areas where the baby will be, and get a diaper pail with a secure lid to help keep your canine from spreading unwanted decor around the home.
4. Help your dog be independent. Soon-to-be-parents are often tempted to lavish extra attention on their dog because they feel guilty about the time they will be taking away from their pooch once the baby arrives. But the smoothest approach is to prepare your pet to be independent, so that he is already used to a decrease in attention before you bring the baby home. Stock up on food puzzles and chew toys to keep your dog’s mind engaged, and prepare an exercise routine for your dog that you can stick to once the baby arrives. Exercise is critical — your routine can include walking the dog yourself or setting up a dog walker or doggy day care to help out.
5. Get your dog used to the sights and sounds of a new baby. Use a baby doll to mimic activities you will do when your real baby arrives. Do the diapering, feeding, bathing, swing time and other activities with your dog present. You can use the mock baby to teach your dog to respect the baby's space and remain calm when you do baby-related things. Play recordings of baby noises, such as crying, and pair them with tasty rewards so your dog associates them with something good occurring. (I recommend a CD called Preparing Fido.) On the day your baby arrives, have a family member take an item home that has been on your baby (either a piece of clothing or a blanket). As soon as your dog smells this item, give him a highly palatable reward, such as a small piece of a turkey hot dog. Then remove the scented item. Present it again and reward again. Since dogs are so keen on smell, he will begin to associate your baby with good things happening before he and your baby even meet.
6. Introduce the baby and the dog carefully. Have your dog meet the new baby on neutral territory. Although it was winter when we brought home our precious Reagan, we had the Pugs come outside for a quick visit before we brought Reagan inside. While the dogs were meeting Reagan, we kept the visit under control by giving them known behavior commands such as "sit" and "down" while rewarding them. We allowed brief sniffing and then directed them to do an action that was compatible with a baby in our hands.
7. Always supervise your children and pets together. The majority of dog bites happen to children when they are not being supervised by an adult. Monitor all interactions between your dog and your baby, and use baby gates or crating when close supervision is not possible.
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