Tots & Tail-Waggers

To a dog, a baby is a very strange creature—tiny, roly-poly, emitting coos and gurgles, and kicking and grasping at everything. What’s more, a baby is an attention magnet and a routine changer. Once baby arrives, life as Fido knew it is never again the same. Some dogs take this in their stride; others struggle with the new world order. But babies and dogs can live happily together. Some pointers:

Before baby. Well before your baby arrives polish your dog’s basic manners. Make sure he comes when called, sits when asked, and knows loose-leash walking. Practice walking your dog with the stroller and having him sit for people coming in the door while you hold a doll. Arrange for a dog walker to take your dog out regularly for at least the first couple of months—a well-exercised dog will have a much easier time adjusting to a changed routine at home. And introduce some of those changes in routine now. Put your dog in his confinement/safe area for 10–15 minutes regularly with a stuffed Kong or chew bone.

After baby. Dogs don’t experience Othello-style jealousy, but they do notice when they get much less love and attention, so give your baby and your dog attention at the same time. Feed your dog before feeding the baby in the same room and praise your dog while carrying your baby. When baby is sleeping, have your dog practice downtime in his crate or on his bed. That way, Fido learns to associate good things with baby’s presence.

The number one rule: Never leave your baby alone with your dog. However wonderful your dog is around your baby, it’s not safe to leave them alone together. Dogs may inadvertently hurt babies when investigating or trying to play, whereas kids shriek and gesture suddenly, often startling dogs. And children in general, small children especially, have to learn to interact appropriately with dogs. Your best bet is to always supervise.