Maybe you already have a fur baby and are wondering how to introduce your tiny bundle to the pooch. Perhaps your kids have started asking for their own four-legged furry, or maybe you just aren’t a dog person and need to know how to deal with the neighborhood four leggers. Anna Pool of Speedy Paws Agility and Stephanie Brooks of Tail Lights Dogs have the answers.

“Kids and dogs seem like they should go together like mac and cheese,” Brooks said.

Even so, she said there are important parental steps to take to help families get that special bond from the very beginning. If you already have a dog and are expecting a baby, it’s important to start preparing your pet, too. Giving the dog a safety space such as a crate or special spot right along with decorating the nursery is an absolute must.

“Start decreasing your physical contact with your pup before the baby arrives so the dog doesn’t associate the arrival with a marked decrease of attention,” Brooks said.

Pool warned that “some dogs find the sound of a baby distressing.”

By playing baby sounds in advance of your new arrival, you will help your dog adjust to the new noises before a newborn comes home. Bring a blanket home with the smell of the new arrival to the family dog before you bring home your new bundle of joy, Pool added. Once the baby arrives, treat your fur member every single time the baby is in the room to associate good things with the new arrival.

If you already have a kiddo who is toddling along and you want to introduce a dog into the family unit, be aware that you will spend as much time dog training as you will potty training. Both trainers recommend taking a hard look at time home, activity level and cost before getting a pooch.

Consult with trainers and dog counselors about the needs and expectations of your family, both said. Purchase all of the dog items and place them in your home while setting the expectations and guidelines for your child. Once you have secured a trainer with a child-friendly obedience class, then bring home the newest four-legged member of the family. Never leave your baby and your dog alone together at any time, both said.

As they grow, children should be taught how to safely interact with dogs. Just like children, every dog has a different level of comfort with every individual they meet. Do not assume because they are out in public that they are safe for your child to approach.

Brooks said, “Dogs speak with their bodies” and Pool added that when dogs growl, “It is because other methods of communication have failed.”

Look for the dog’s tail position, lip licking, eye aversion and yawning all as warning signs the dog is not comfortable.

Dogs can teach responsibility, respect and unconditional love to children, both trainers said. If they have been introduced properly, they can bring a wonderful friendship to your child built on trust and doggie kisses.

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