If you own a dog when you discover you're pregnant, you'll need to start getting your four-legged friend ready for the arrival of the baby. Dogs are loyal companions and it's important to prepare them so their noses aren't put out of joint by the sudden arrival of a noisy creature who takes up all his owner's attention.
We spoke to Brian Brady, a Canine Welfare Trainer at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, for his tips on how to prepare your dog for the imminent arrival.
Dogs and pregnancy - prepare
He says: 'It's always important to foster a good relationship between your baby and pet and there are several steps you can take to ensure that your dog is comfortable with the new addition to the household. Don't assume that your dog knows what's going on. It's important that you maintain your dog's routine and that you make any necessary changes gradually over the course of the pregnancy. It's a good idea, for example, to introduce new items such as buggies, car seats, and carry cases prior to the birth, and you can acclimatise your dog to the sound of babies crying by searching the internet for the sounds. If certain areas are going to become off limits install baby gates and start implementing these new rules prior to bringing the baby home.'
You could also try taking an empty pram for a walk with your dog to get him used to it. If you are already aware that your dog has behavioural problems, try and solve them before the baby is born. Your vet can refer you to someone for advice and training.
Dogs and bringing the baby home
Brian Brady continues: 'After the baby is born, make sure your dog is reunited with you first, without the baby, as your dog will be excited to greet you. It's best you make the first introductions to the baby after your dog has had a lengthy exercise session and walk. Do the introduction in a neutral place, not where the dog sleeps or eats, and don't scold or punish your dog. If he is over-excited or appears uncomfortable, remove him from the situation, but give him lots of praise and attention if he is calm and under control.'
Dogs and babies - after the first day
Having a newborn is hard work, but make sure that your dog still gets exercise and attention, even if you have to ask friends and neighbours to help out. Brian Brady advises: 'Remember you should never leave a small child or baby unattended with any dog, but by taking gradual steps to introduce both to each other, you can help encourage a great relationship. Many children will benefit from having a pet from an early age, and understanding how to respond to and act around animals.'
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