Bringing baby home: Tips on helping your dog adapt to a new baby

Congratulations, you're having a baby! You spent nine months preparing for your newborn, but what about your other "baby" - your dog. Most canines are used to being the "baby" of the family and may find it difficult to lose this position. You can, however, help your pet adjust to the big changes ahead with minimal time and effort by making gradual adjustments to your lifestyle before your newborn baby arrives. The American Kennel Club (AKC) suggests taking the following steps to ensure a smooth transition.

- Make gradual changes to your dog's routines - such as where the dog sleeps or when he exercises - before the baby comes home, so the dog will not associate the changes with the baby.

- 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.

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

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

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

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

- Once your dog is used to the baby's smell, allow the dog to sniff the baby off leash. Be extra vigilant, your dog may react differently if the baby suddenly screams, cries or kicks and interpret these signs as an invitation to play or your dog may be startled and act defensively.

- 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.

- 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. Instead replace the child's toy with the dogs'.

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