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Congratulations on your new family member! Bringing a baby home is a joyous occasion, but it can also be quite nerve-wracking, especially when there’s a dog involved. Just because your pet pooch is sweet and docile with you doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll treat your baby the same. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, half of all children aged 12 and under have been bitten by a dog. But this doesn’t mean that your dog and child can’t live in harmony. By following these tips, you can help your dog and baby become the best of friends.

Play Pretend with Your Dog

You can slowly introduce your dog to the idea of a baby by presenting new smells and sounds. Play audio recordings of baby noises. Let them smell baby powder and shampoo. Introduce them to baby accessories like the stroller and high chair. You could even bring home a baby doll so that your dog gets used to the sight of you carrying a baby in your arms.

Install Safety Gates

Just like you would use a safety gate to child-proof your home, you may also need to canine-proof your baby’s nursery by blocking it off from your curious dog. If you think your dog may want to jump all over the baby furniture, this will save the whole family from a lot of stress. Take into account your dog’s size and behavior when choosing a safety gate — some dogs can easily jump over a standard gate, so if this sounds like your pooch, opt for an extra tall and sturdy gate.

Give Your Pooch Less Attention

Once your baby arrives, you won’t have as much time for your dog. Though you may be tempted to spoil your pet pooch in the weeks before your baby arrives, it’s wiser to lessen the amount of affection you give her. Though it may be tough, this will help her adjust once the baby arrives.

Go Over the Basic Commands

You might not have previously given dog training much thought, but now that you’re bringing an infant home, it’s important that your dog knows how to follow orders. Teach your dog how to sit and stay, if you haven’t already. You can also train him to go to a certain place, like a mat or bed. Forget the old saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” With a little patience (and perhaps a lot of treats), you’ll have your dog following commands like a champ.

Keep Calm and Act Normally

When the big day arrives, greet your dog alone first so he doesn’t jump all over you. Act calmly and don’t overexcite your dog with nervous energy. And don’t be in a rush to introduce your dog to your baby. Give it a few days (or even weeks) to adjust before you introduce them closely.

Make Sure your Baby Doesn’t Pull on Your Dog

Babies are curious by nature, so it’s normal for them to want to pull on their four-legged older sibling’s tail or ears. If your dog snaps or growls, that’s not their fault — it’s their way of saying “back off”. It’s your job to pull your baby away and possibly distract them with a toy so your dog doesn’t get harassed.

NEVER Leave Your Dog Alone With a Baby

You may think that your dog can’t hurt a fly, but you don’t want to take any chances with children. Your baby is fragile, and a bite that wouldn’t significantly hurt an adult, could cause serious injury in an infant. Even the most trusted and docile dog shouldn’t be left alone with a baby or small child. Dogs are less likely to attack children in the presence of an adult — especially if that adult is their owner, so be vigilant.

Your dog may not think much of your baby at first. Perhaps your dog has gotten used to being treated like the baby of the family, so don’t be surprised if he or she shows signs of jealousy in the beginning — this is a perfectly normal response. With that in mind, you want to prepare your home for a child and a dog. But with time and close supervision, you can help create a lifelong bond between your dog and your family’s new addition.

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