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My husband and I have just found out that we’re expecting our first baby. It is a very exciting time for us but we are a bit worried as to how our two old dogs will cope. They are both rescued collie crosses – 10 and 12 years old. They have not had much experience of babies or children, although they have always been fine with any we’ve had visiting or met outside the home.

How can we best prepare them for the new arrival?

Kirsten Dillon advises…

First of all, congratulations, what a wonderfully exciting time for you all.

There is a lot of advice out there in the wonderful world of the internet, but I find that much of it insults both ours and our dog’s intelligence and can also provide for a false sense of security. Avoid any ‘rank reduction’ or ‘pack leader’ advice as it is dangerously outdated.

You have two older dogs, whose breed crosses are known for their intelligence and independent thought, and they are perfectly able to follow simple commands I am sure. Safety around very young babies is not magical trickery, but simple management. You don’t know your dogs’ full histories, so there is no room for assumptions in this scenario, despite how well you think you know them. You will never be letting your dogs close enough without you actively supervising for there to be any real danger or disharmony but take no chances.

If you plan to make changes to your home, then do so as soon as you can. If you want to alter any areas that your dogs currently have access to then do it now, for example the nursery or the sofas. By making changes months before the new arrival the dogs won’t hold any association between the two events.

If you haven’t already done so, teach them both to go to their ‘place’ (a bed or mat) and provide something rewarding like a treat or chew when they do so. At the ages your dogs are, even the fittest 10 and 12-year olds like a good nap, so this is probably happening organically.

Some other things you can do if you want to are to play recordings of baby sounds before the arrival, so they get used to the strange and different noises. You can also carry a baby doll around and ask them to go to their place while you interact with the doll. There are moving, lifelike baby dolls around if you want to go the whole hog. You can bring home a blanket with the baby’s smell on too if you have time.

When you arrive home, let the dogs sniff and inspect all of you returning to the home, give them their usual greeting and then carry on as normal.

As your baby grows and changes, your dog’s perception of them will change too, so revisit and revise your protocols often.

Dogs are perfectly able to adapt, and I think that by employing common sense and simply getting on with living your life all will be fine.

A good resource is www.familypaws.com if you want reliable and up-to-date advice.

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