By Aimee Heckel
He was your “furry baby,” the center of your universe — until you brought home that funny-smelling, crying blanket from the hospital.
There’s a pretty good chance you will encounter the tension between being a good dog owner and a good parent if you decide to have kids; the Humane Society of the United States estimates that nearly half of American households have at least one dog. That doesn’t even account for the 96 million pet cats.
With an infant, you might not have time to bring your dog outside as often as you used to. And your first instinct may be to come down hard on your pet, in an attempt to protect your fragile little bundle. This may only exasperate your pet’s confusion or anxiety with the changes.
But your four-legged friend does not have to fade to the background when you decide to become a parent.
Here are some ways to include your pet — and set up your family for a healthy relationship with animals — when you have a new baby.
Family Paws Parent Education
The Family Paws website is one of our favorite resources, because offers expert help and resources for families with dogs. Family Paws offers two programs, Dogs & Storks and the Dog & Baby Connection (for toddlers), both designed to help parents build safe, loving relationships among all members of the family. Find classes in various cities, or check out webinars online.
Family Paws was featured in the Martha Stewart magazine.
Four recommendations from Family Paws’ website and blog:
1. Create baby-free areas in the house. Yes, areas in the house where the baby is not allowed, to give the dogs space to romp and roam freely, without the unpredictable behavior of a young child.
If you crate your dog, do not let your child play in the crate.
2. Remember: Any dog can be pushed to the point of hurting someone. Before there is a problem, practice prevention and education.
3. Teach and model behaviors that help dogs feel safe, even before your child is ready to learn them. For example, invite a dog over or blow a kiss instead of crowding them while they are resting.
4. Instead of running or backing away from a dog that is too rowdy or gets too close, teach your kids to “become a tree:” root down to the ground and relax. This disengages the dog and can calm a dog.
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