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How to Introduce Pets to Children

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It’s hard when you’re not the top dog anymore. Our resident pup columnist shares advice on introducing your fur baby to your baby.

By Lucy J. Phillips

Dear Lucy,

My human recently brought home a tiny, funny-smelling creature. It screams a lot, which makes me anxious, and it doesn’t know how to play fetch. Worst of all, my humans have been equally stressed and enamored ever since they brought it home, so I am not getting much attention. How can I help care for this human puppy and still get plenty of belly rubs?

-Jimmy the Jealous Jack Russell


Dear Jimmy,

A new baby human in the house is both exciting and stressful. One day, we are king or queen of the castle and the next, we are suddenly always underfoot, asking for attention in the wrong way and at the wrong time. I can’t speak from personal experience, but I have seen Lady and the Tramp, the classic cautionary tale of why dogs should remain No. 1 in the pack. (By the way, my human is telling me that is not the moral of the story.) Since I seem to be a poor film critic, I did some digging on helpful websites like that of the American Kennel Club to gather some tips.

Don’t jump to conclusions. In fact, it’s best not to jump at all. If you struggle to resist the urge to pummel humans with bouncy love, it’s time to learn to curb that impulse once and for all. A basic obedience class can help you brush up on this essential skill, along with commands like “sit,” “down” and “stay.” Each of these will help you develop a stronger bond with your humans, building trust on both sides. Once they trust you to approach calmly, you will likewise trust their invitations to sniff this small but noisy creature.

Learn your place. If you don’t already have a “place” in the house, like a crate or soft pillow, work with your human to find a corner of the house that is all yours. Simply equipping yourself with the obedience to go there—and the patience to stay—will go a long way to relieving your human’s stress. Studies show having a place relieves our stress too. It teaches us to cope with our surroundings and helps us trust that our humans know how to handle stressful situations for us.

One for you and two for me. With a baby comes fun toys for you, right? Wrong. It can be tempting to sniff all the soft new toys (especially the squeaky ones), but these irresistible products are apparently essential for human development and not for tearing apart. If you do give in to the temptation, your human should simply replace the baby toy with a dog toy rather than scold you. This ensures you don’t build negative associations with the baby’s smell.

Stay positive. Humans can create positive associations with baby smells in advance by introducing products like lotions and powders to pups before the baby’s due date. Once the baby arrives, Cesar Millan, aka the dog whisperer, recommends bringing an item that contains the baby’s scent home from the hospital before introducing you to the baby. As your human gradually grants permission to you to approach, it teaches us that this new scent belongs to them and we need to respect the rules around it.

Like all interactions between dogs and humans, everyone is happier when we know the rules. As you adjust to these new house guidelines, remember that with this new addition, you now have one more human to love, snuggle and protect. Hang in there!

Puppy love, Lucy

If you have a dog-related question for Lucy, reach out and follow her on Instagram @asklucydog.


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