Children and pets 

A baby is on the way to your family and in a couple of months life is going to be much different. You are busy preparing yourselves and the house for the newcomer, spending hours shopping for baby things and arranging the rooms. But what about your dog? His family is changing too. How is he going to react to all this?

Your dog is good. Of course he is. He never shows teeth or growls at anybody. He is well mannered and behaved. But he needs to make big adjustments and you can make it easier by training and gradual preparation before hand. If your dog has some behavior issues (anxiety, possession, chewing, aggression), or you might fear adverse circumstances, consult your veterinarian and get help.

Start a few months before the due date. Give your dog a review of past obedience classes and exercise commands and responses. If needed, enroll in a refresher course. Have your pet participate in the gradual changes in the house. Let him smell and explore the new crib, blankets, moving swings, "baby music" and other items you introduce to the house. Gradually set limits of access to the baby's room and allow it only by permission when you are present. Place a gate or close the door when you are not around.

If your dog is accustomed to being "No. 1" in the family, gets constant attention, follows you in the house and sleeps in your bed, he needs to make some changes to his life style. You are going to be busy with the baby; your nights are going to be busy with child care activities. Prepare your dog by gradually changing his habits and train him to sleep in a designated location and stay in place until allowed to leave. 

Take your dog to the veterinarian for a physical exam, parasite control and vaccination update. Many parasites or health issues may pose danger to the baby.

When the baby arrives, make the introduction brief. Allow repeated short duration exposures and let your dog adapt to the situation. Keep your baby in position above the dog and establish the family hierarchy in your behavior. Give your dog attention and help him adjust when the baby is in the crib. Never allow your dog near the baby without supervision.

Keep dirty diapers out of reach. That might stimulate territorial marking and you don't want your dog to go through a pile of dirty diapers. 

Toddlers are challenging not only to parents but also to pets.  They are in a fast growing phase and changes occur on a daily basis. From crawling to walking, these little explorers gain mobility and embark on journeys of discovery. They do not understand danger, and the potential for disaster is increasingly high.

For the dog, the change from a static to a mobile child may be invasive. Standing up may even pose a threat. It is important to involve the child with pet care and training activities on a daily basis. Parents have the daunting task of training themselves, the child and the dog.

Both pets and children need to learn limits, but they should never be left together unsupervised. The pet dog must learn its place in the â€oepack” and become accustomed to the presence of the child. It is good to involve the toddler with daily pet routines. This helps the dog adapt gradually and learn that the child is not a threat.

The child must learn limits, such as not to reach for the dog's mouth in the presence of food and to respect the dog's space. A toddler jumping or tumbling on a sleeping dog may evoke a scare or even a bite.

Toddlers are inquisitive and probe and poke ears, nostrils and mouths, pull hair and tails, and taste everything. That's a no-no with a dog. Exposure to potential parasites and germs can have serious consequences. This applies to objects as well, so it can be a good time to instill good hygienic habits in your child.

Playtime is fun and healthy, but parents should avoid chasing games and rough-housing. Teach your child the "possum stance" in case of dog aggression: remaining still and quiet with arms folded over the chest and hands covering the face. Contact your veterinarian in the event you observe any episodes of aggression.

Overall, most family dogs love children. They protect them and are happy in their company. With a little work and healthy respect for the rules, you can avoid the growing pains and keep the whole family happy.

More information Healthy pets healthy people, Growing up with pets

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