Saturday, February 18, 2006

When Baby makes four, because you have a Dog

By Christina VanGinkel

You are finally going to be the proud parents of a new baby. Everyone is so excited with the news, and warm wishes greet you every place you go, except home that is. There sits your four-legged friend, who until recently has been the recipient of your undivided attention. Now, he is not quite sure what is going on, but give him credit for being aware that something major is about to happen, he just cannot quite put his paw on what that specifically is.

Where his blanket has existed in the family room for years, now sits this strange contraption on four legs with a seat that swings back and forth in it. He and his blanket have been relegated to the corner by the door. His food dish has been moved from a spot of prominence right next to the fridge, to another corner. Then, when he was all set to jump into bed, where he has contentedly snuggled for years between his two masters, the one sprouting the newly thicken waistline, points to the floor, and firmly tells him he can no longer jump on the bed! What in the world, his world and the one he lives in, is going on?

Your dog can be as upset by the birth of a new family member as you are excited by it. Even the most docile dog can show aggression towards the newest addition if given enough provocation. And so, it is your job with all the others you now have going on in your already changing life, to make sure that your family pet neither feels displaced, nor has a chance to take that aggression out on the new baby.

As soon as you know that a new baby is coming, make any adjustments around the house that will directly effect your pet, such as moving his food dish or blanket, so that he does not directly associate these changes with the baby. Changes made early enough will long be adjusted to by the time baby arrives. If your house has been a quiet one up until now, and your dog is easily annoyed by noises, try to find some ways to get him accustomed to the new sounds that will most assuredly come home with baby, again, so that he does not associate the change with the infant coming into the house. The more you can do to make any changes long before baby's arrival, do them. A good friend of mine had never penned her dog in all of his many years with them. When she found out that she was expecting, she purchased a large pet carrier, and had it take up a place of prominence in their bedroom and family room. Throughout the ensuing months of her pregnancy, she would occasionally place her dog into the carrier, with a treat, making it seem like a wonderful retreat for him. With his favorite blanket and a treat to chew on, this became one of his favorite spots. By the time baby arrived, she used the pen to contain him during stressful times, giving the dog his own private sanctuary from the noise and many visitors that he was not accustomed to, as up until then, the household he had lived in had been very quiet. Your ultimate goal is to bring that baby home with as little fuss to your dog's existence as you can. The fuss should take place before baby is what I am trying to get across, so that if you dogs do exhibit any aggressions, you will have the time to deal with them without any risk to your child.

Be sure to talk to your family vet if you experience any concerns. They have most likely heard many scenarios of how others have dealt with exactly what you are going through, and they can often offer some of the best tips and guidelines. Talk to your family doctor or pediatrician too. The more ideas, the more likely you are to find the ones that will work for you.

Keep in mind that the size of your dog will not really play a big part in the overall risks that can occur when you bring a new baby home. Small dogs can pose just as big a problem as large dogs, and vice versa. Also, never trust your dog, no matter how docile they may seem, with an infant. Most dogs will eventually adjust, but on the rare occasion that you have a dog that is just not going to make home a happy place when the bouncing bundle of joy arrives, it is ultimately your responsibility to keep your infant safe.

Sometimes, you may have to make a major sacrifice, and remove your beloved family pet from the home. This is extremely rare, but it does occur. This is even more reason to take the job of readying your pet for baby's arrival as seriously as you can.

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