When a new baby is on the way the arrival is often planned down to the smallest detail. But sometimes the four-legged member of the family is left out of the planning process, which could lead to frustrating and sometimes dangerous behavior from your dog. Some simple steps can help ensure that first impression is a good one.

A new baby in the house can be a confusing transition for family members with four legs.  Experts say you'll need to help that first baby adjust to the new one you'll soon bring home. 

Certified master trainer Karen Quillen owns All Things Pawssible in Charlottesville.

"I think that it's crucial that anybody who is expecting a baby learn some things. Get some education. Know what could happen, and how to prevent accidents from happening," she stated.

Quillen says sometimes a dog's natural curiosity can be alarming to a new parent so it's best to lay some groundwork before baby comes home.  "A dog's way of investigating is to just go full on in, whether it's a baby or another dog, and without proper steps put into place, teaching a dog to walk up calmly not to jump. Teaching them to touch with their nose is crucial."

Infants are of course delicate and a new parent's natural instinct to protect their baby could lead to panic and confusion for the canine. 

"One of the big mistakes is to get panicked. And you have the baby and the dog may be coming over, and you start yelling or pushing the dog away, and then the dog thinks something is wrong. You know they are more likely to act out because you've changed. All of a sudden, you don't want your dog around," Quillen stated.

Quillen recommends keeping the first introductions as relaxed and casual as possible.  "Mom would go and sit in a chair and hold the baby, and you would calmly bring the dog up, and ask them to touch, which is targeting with their nose, this kind of thing, ask them to sit, stay, let them go ahead and sniff. You know, we don't want to be pushing them away." 

And no matter how well your dog is trained, the main responsibility of keeping your baby and dog living in harmony rests on your shoulders. 

"You are the human, with the thinking brain. You keep the baby safe. Don't expect the dog to baby-sit and to do everything right, because they may not. It's just not fair," she said.

Quillen also teaches a class at Martha Jefferson Hospital called "Get Rover Ready".  You don't have to be a patient at Martha Jefferson to participate in the free class.  Click here for more information.

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