A Formula for Babies and Pets
by Julia Szabo
Kids and pets are a natural together - here's how to lay the foundation for a beautiful friendship.
Every year, thousands of pets are surrendered at animal shelters "because we're expecting a baby." But pets bring smiles and confidence to kids; they make childhood more fun.
Forget the cliché that cats and babies can't mix. "There is no truth to that old wives' tale," says William Berloni of the Humane Society of New York. "Our cats loved our daughter from the start, and she loves them. If you're concerned about scratching, the danger will come when the kids are toddlers, not infants-and it's easily avoided by supervising them and keeping cats' nails clipped short." (Or check out vinyl claw covers at softpaws.com; just please don't declaw.)
As for Fido, a people-oriented canine who's used to being touched and handled often will most likely be glad to welcome the new arrival, even if he has never been around children before. An excellent resource is Brian Kilcommons' book Child-Proofing Your Dog (Warner Books).
"When I was pregnant, I had two Great Danes who were not necessarily kid-friendly," says dog trainer and bite-prevention expert Rikke Brogaard (rikkebdogtraining.com). "They ended up adoring my baby and thinking she was the greatest thing since the invention of tennis balls. The single most important thing I did was to walk quietly over to my dogs every day while they were sleeping and very gently grab an ear or a tail or a paw. When they woke up and looked confused, I had a great treat ready for them, right under their nose. I wanted, at all costs, to avoid ever having my child sneak up on them and grab them while they were sleeping, and having the dogs react-not unreasonably, from a dog's perspective-by snapping or biting. To this day, my dogs think that being grabbed or pinched means free treats. Of course, never leave a child alone with a dog under any circumstances," Brogaard cautions, "but it's nice to know that you have a backup system for that one second when you're not looking."
His master's "waah!"
Good family dogs have to be tolerant of loud, unexpected noises. Two enterprising moms came up with a clever way of desensitizing canines to a newborn's impressive vocal repertoire. The "Preparing Fido" CD plays various infant sounds to accustom a dog to the new soundtrack that will fill his home (preparingfido.com).