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My wife is about to give birth to our first child, and we are trying figure out the best way to introduce our dog to the newborn.

The dog, a 12-year old pug, has been an "only child" so we are unsure how he is going to react. Typically, he is an extremely laid back and mellow dog, but can be very excitable in new situations.

How can we introduce them to limit the stress on the new mother, and the dog, so we can try to integrate the new member into our family?

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The Humane Society of the United States has a few suggestions to prepare your pet. Some of them sound a little silly, but they do work.

One of the most important things is getting the pet used to the new noises and sounds the baby will make - a lot of pets will find baby cries and the like upsetting. You can play crying sounds and the like to acclimate the pet, for example.

As for actual introduction of the baby to the pet, they suggest first giving the animal something with the baby's smell on it (a blanket, etc) so they don't get alarmed by the new smell in the house, if possible.

It is also suggested that you try to keep your pet's routine the same as much as possible, and that you greet the pet first without the baby when you arrive home with your new child.

Basically, you want the pet to interact positively with the baby, so you will want to reward and encourage positive interactions, and at first you might want to limit the time the pet and the baby spend actively together. Bring the baby to sit with the pet, etc (with you holding the baby, of course), for small bursts, extending them over time, as the pet gets used to the baby.

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I would say start by familiarizing the dog with the baby's scent. Bring an item that contains your baby's scent, such as a burp rag before bringing the baby around the dog.

Have the dog sniff it from a distance at first preferably. By doing this, you are communicating to your dog that the item is yours and then giving permission for the dog to sniff. This helps start the process of creating respect for the baby.

Be very careful also as dogs have been known to attack children for particularly no reason, the noise might excite them or they might be overly rough when playing around etc. There are many articles around the web. I suggest not leaving the dog with the toddler and paying attention to how he behaves around the baby, if seeking attention, dogs can get restless and this can lead to accidents.

Other general tips are to:

  • Pay attention to your dog when around the toddler and make sure you are in a controlled environment.

  • Observe and become aware of how the dog seeks your attention.

  • Know your dog’s sensitivities. Research the breed or mixes. Does he startle with fast motion, noises etc.

  • Allow your dog to become familiar with the baby equipment.

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