If you are like much of the population, your four-legged friend is your first "baby." Many people worry needlessly about how their dog will handle a baby in their life. Many owners think of getting rid of the family pets because of fears that they will harm the baby. Please do not do this unless there is no other option. Most dogs, when treated and trained properly, can handle life with a newborn very well.

Children and pets make wonderful companions when raised properly together and taught how to behave with each other. Children that grow up in a home with pets learn respect and love for animals, and more importantly, respect for life. As the children grow older they can learn responsibility by helping to care for the animals. Animals enrich our and our children's lives beyond belief.

Having a baby can cause problems for both humans and dogs, as the dog tends to be treated differently, and because of this, may act differently. Some owners baby the dog more, causing the dog to become spoiled and hard to handle. Other owners get over-stressed and punish the dog for normal, curious behavior toward the baby. Often our pets are the center of our world, our "babies" if you would, and can get "jealous" if not equipped to handle losing that status to the new baby. If you are willing to make the time and effort to prepare your pets for the new arrival, everyone can live in harmony.

Sometimes the dogs become overprotective of the baby. Many owners enjoy and even prefer the dog being a guard for the baby. While it is normal for the dog to become protective of the baby, it is dangerous for the dog to become overprotective and not let anyone near the baby. All of the above scenarios can lead to the dog being kicked out of the house!

As you are making preparations to bring home baby, you need to prepare your dog(s) for the same in advance if possible. While most dogs will be very gentle with the baby, many dogs do not see babies as humans because of their size, smell, and the strange noises they make. By taking the time to give your dog some extra love and attention he should be fine and not turn to bad behavior to get your attention. You need to prepare and educate your dog for what lies ahead. This will ensure that they are ready and willing to accept the new family member with open and loving paws.

Using calming remedies (herbs, aromatherapy, oils) and or prescription medications are also an option to help facilitate a better behaved dog. You can talk to your veterinarian to inquire about these products and the implications associated with their use. I am a believer in the holistic approach whenever possible, instead of using drugs.

Please, please always be aware that your dog is an animal and animals can bite or do harm to a baby, intentionally or unintentionally. No matter how well-behaved or loving your dog is NEVER LEAVE YOUR DOG ALONE WITH YOUR BABY! I cannot stress this enough. Accidents can happen. You do not want to harm your baby or have to get rid of your dog because of an unfortunate, and possibly avoidable, incident.

If you are unsure that your dog will accept your new baby, please seek the advice of a professional trainer or behaviorist before making any decisions.

Believe it or not, your behavior with, and toward your dog matters. It can make or break your dog's acceptance of and respect for your baby. If you act like a leader, you will be treated like a leader. You want your dog to respect every human being in your household, including your baby. You must teach your dog respect for the baby. This will make life easier for all those involved.

Be firm but fair-

Do not let your dog get away with things, but don't be a drill sergeant either! Try to make any corrections as gentle as possible, but make sure they are effective. Try to have fun with your dog and the training - you both need to enjoy it or neither one will want to continue!

Your tone of voice matters-

DO NOT YELL at your dog! Convey the meaning of the command through the tone of voice - match your voice to what you are telling your dog. Commands should be short and succinct, in a low, almost growling voice. Your voice should not get higher as you give the command. Do not sing to your dog or ask the dog a question! You will not get the answer you want! When giving praise, sound like you mean it! It should be the opposite of a command - higher pitched and enthusiastic. If your dog gets overly excited when you praise him, tone it down a bit and speak softly. Your dog will still understand that he is doing a good job, but he will be less likely to jump around and be crazy.

Be calm and assertive-

Our dogs feed off of our energies and emotions. This affects their behaviors and reactions. If we are relaxed and confident, our dogs will feel the same, and know that we are LEADING them, and they do not have to lead us.

Use a crate-

If your dog does not already use a crate, now is the time to start. A crate is not cruel, it can actually be a wonderful and safe place for your dog. Confining your dog at certain times, such as for sleep or times when you cannot supervise, is no different than putting your baby in its crib for the same. It is actually very easy to teach your dog to accept being in the crate. Most people think that a dog who has not used a crate before will have a hard time, but that is not usually true. My two older dogs started using the crate when they were 7 and 8 years old, about the time my son started crawling and exploring on his own. This allowed me to know that both my child and my dogs were safe and nothing bad could happen. Your child can be hurt by your dog as easy as your child could hurt your dog. The problem lies in the fact that if the dog makes even the slightest threat to your baby or even inadvertently hurts your baby, it is your dog's fault. It is not fair to the dog for something like that to happen because you were not supervising the two together at all times!

Eliminate bad manners-

Bad manners cannot be accepted as they can be dangerous to a new baby and a new mom. Jumping and nipping are behaviors that need to be stopped right away. Stealing and rough-play also need to be nipped in the bud immediately.

Teach your dog how to be calm and gentle, by praising and treating this behavior.

Working commands into everyday life and play makes listening easy and normal for your dog. It becomes natural to the dog and it is less-likely that your dog will be out-of-control. It is also good for you too, as it makes sure that you are training your dog everyday, making you the leader - not the follower.

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