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Preparing your pet for baby's arrival

If you're pregnant, your pooch has probably figured out that something is up. Jessica Hartshorn, Senior Lifestyle Editor for American Baby, gives tips on how to prepare your four legged family member for the newest arrival.

When you find out you're expecting, if your dog hasn't been to basic obedience class, it's time to sign him up. Behavior that seems like no big deal now, like jumping up to greet you at the door, might become an issue late in your pregnancy or when you're carrying a new baby. You'll also want to take your dog to the park so you can see how he reacts to babies from a distance. Ask mom friends if you can walk near them with the dog when they have their baby in a stroller. These tactics will acclimate your dog to the sight and sound of children.

Three months before your due date get a doll and treat it as your infant. Set up the bassinet, crib and swing and have the doll 'use' them. You want your dog to become familiar with these items now, not when your baby is in them. It might confuse your neighbors, but practice walking your dog while pushing your future baby's stroller. This will help him get used to it.

One month before your due date line up dog sitters who can walk and feed your dog while you're in the hospital. Enlist someone you can count on if you have to call at 3am to ask her to take your dog out later. If you're worried about jugging a dog and a newborn in the early days, sign your pup up for doggie day care and try it out now.

Right before your due date divide your dog's food into individual servings. Jot down pertinent phone numbers like the vet's for your sitter. And get in some TLC time with your dog. If he's feeling your nerves, it will calm him down and it will relax you too.

When you come home with your baby your pooch is going to be overjoyed to reunite with you if he hasn't seen you in days. Let your partner hold the baby when you walk into the house. Greet your dog without the baby in your arms. Dogs can sense that nursing is intimate so keep some treats around for him while you're feeding so that he knows he'll get rewarded for being on good behavior. Include your dog in baby related activities. Let him sit nearby when you're changing a diaper and talk to both of your "babies" together.

For more information on preparing your pet for your baby's arrival and other parenting tips, click here.

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