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12 STEPS FOR INTRODUCING DOGS TO NEW BABY IN HOME

When you bring home a new baby, what's exciting for you and your spouse may be confusing and frightening for your dog. That little baby seems like a human, but it smells, sounds and moves like nothing your pet has ever seen before. And suddenly this strange, loud creature is taking up all of his owners' time and attention. But by planning ahead and taking the right steps in the first few weeks of you baby's homecoming, you can help create a bond between your new addition and its new four-legged companion. The American Kennel Club breaks down the process:

1. Make gradual changes to your dog's routines. Before the baby comes home, try changing where the dog sleeps or when he gets walks, so that the dog will not associate the changes with the baby.

2. Play a tape recording of a baby crying in your house for increasing lengths of time so your dog can adjust to the new sounds before you bring the baby home.

3. Teach your dog to sit and stay on command and reward him with treats. It's important that your dog accept not being the focus of attention for a period of time.

4. Bring an article of the baby's clothing or a blanket home so the dog can get used to the infant's scent.

5. When you arrive home with the newborn, first greet your dog alone so it doesn't get excited and jump on the baby.

6. Allow your dog to adjust to the smell, sight and sound of the baby for a few days before introducing them face to face.

7. After a few days, allow the dog to sniff the baby while controlled on the leash. Pet him and give him praise while he sniffs. Most dogs adapt easily, but always take precautions.

8. Once you dog is used to the baby's smell, allow the dog to sniff the baby off leash. Your dog may react differently if the baby suddenly screams, cries or kicks and interpret these signs as an invitation to play or as a warning.

9. Give your dog plenty of attention when the baby is around. You don't want him to decide good things only happen when the baby isn't around.

10. Don't scold the dog for picking up the baby's toys. You don't want the smell of the baby being associated with anything negative. Simply replace the child's toy with the dog's.

11. Once your baby begins to crawl, make sure that he/she doesn't pull on the dog's tail or ears. Snapping and growling are natural canine behaviors when they are trying to communicate a warning. Even the most tolerant dog has it limits.

12. Never leave even the most trusted dog alone with a baby or small child.

For more tips on dog ownership, visit the AKC at www.AKC.org

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