Safely Introduce Your Dog to Your New Baby

Last updated on September 13th, 2015 at 12:16 am

Many couples put off having that first child for a number of reasons:  To establish their career, to be more financially stable, some want to buy the house first…… But in their desire to nurture ‘something’, many (myself included) choose to get a dog – and the dog invariably takes on the role of substitute child. In my household, we refer to our dog as our ‘son’, and when we talk to him, we refer to each other as ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy.’

But as a professional dog trainer, one call I get quite often is, “We have had our dog for years, and he has always been so good…. Until we brought home the new baby a few months ago. Then his behavior totally changed! I think he is jealous of the baby, and I am afraid for the baby’s safety, I think we are going to have to get rid of the dog.”

How many of us remember the classic Disney movie “Lady and the Tramp”?  The scene that always comes to mind for me regarding this subject is when Lady sings, “What Is a Baby?” It actually gives amazing insight into what I, as a trainer, see as the problem.

All rights reserved by Disney – Lady and the tramp (1955)

Prior to the baby coming home, all of the attention and nurturing has been on the dog. If you play the video clip, pay attention to the small things, like how Lady starts off alone downstairs, the lights are off, and none of her people are around. As she climbs the stairs she sings, “They haven’t even noticed that I’m around today”. Then she sees Jim, and gets into a happy begging position… which always got her plenty of attention before, but distracted, he ignores her as he goes down the stairs with the baby bottles. When she arrives at the top of the stairs, she knows her “Mom” is behind the door, but the door is almost closed, and it is the only light on. As she approaches the almost closed door, she sings the last line, “I must find out today, what makes Jim Dear and Darling, act this way.”

So first off, I want to dispel a myth…. Regardless of how it may seem, dogs do not get jealous. This is a human emotion we put on them to explain their behavior. In order to be jealous, there has to be a cognitive thought process…. “They are getting something, I’m not, and it’s not fair!” Sorry folks…. Dogs are just not that complex. For them, it is mostly curiosity…and a somewhat child-like instinct. Like a two-year old they want to be included (“me too, me too”). There are also a ton of new smells, the sound of crying that they are not accustomed to, and let’s not leave out the fact that quite often, as new parents, there is usually a bit of tension when the new baby first comes home. Your dog picks up on this tension, one that was not previously there. Let’s face it….you’ve had 9 months to prepare for this. Isn’t it only fair that you prepare them for this big event as well?

Here are some of the typical ‘bad behaviors’ my customers report to me that their dog is doing…

  • Dog pulls at baby toyJumping up on them when they are holding the baby
  • Nipping at the baby
  • Pulling and yanking on the baby’s clothes
  • Excessive and nuisance barking
  • Growling at the baby
  • Trying to ‘climb’ into their laps while they’re holding the baby, as if the dog were trying to knock the baby off.
  • ‘Pawing’ at the baby
  • Stealing items belonging to the baby

So now, the question becomes “how do you correct these behaviors while balancing a baby in your arms?”  The best answer I can give you is not to wait until the baby arrives.

Start prepping the dog in advance for its arrival. Here are some of the ways you can easily accomplish this. Some may feel or seem a bit silly to you, but trust me when I say about 95% of the time, early preparation works.

  1. Get a small box of diapers. Put a few piles in rooms like the bedroom, living room, bathroom, and any other areas you might be typically changing the child’s diaper in the future.  A clean diaper has no odor to us, but you better believe it does to a dog that can track a scent for hundreds of miles. This accomplishes two things; it allows your dog to familiarize himself with something that will be around constantly in the very near future, and enables you to correct him if he goes to steal or chew them. If he sniffs it and walks away, this is the appropriate behavior, so make sure you praise him. If he goes to grab it, make a loud noise and in a firm (but not angry) voice say “LEAVE IT!”. If he leaves it alone, praise him.
  1. Get a doll.  Get a doll the size of a real-life baby, put a diaper on it, swaddle it, and start walking around the house with it in your arms. As you walk, do the same rocking, cooing and coddling you will be doing for your real baby. More often than not, the dog will get excited and go to jump up and may even go a bit nuts barking. It is important at this moment to remember that your dog is not trying to hurt the baby, but more likely just responding to the same baby talk that you have used on him for the last several years. This is why this practice is so important.  Use this time to make whatever corrections are necessary to ensure your real baby will be coming home to a safe environment. With a doll in your arms, you can firmly push him down and tell him, “OFF!” and when he isn’t jumping, tell him “GOOD BOY” and you can bend down to his level with the doll in your arms and let him sniff it. While he is doing that, make sure to tell him, “EASY” and again, praise him.
  1. Sound Effects  Another suggestion I offer people is to pull up a sound effect of a baby crying on YouTube, and use your cell phone to record it. The one I have used before is Put the doll down either on a blanket on the floor or in the crib if you already have one set up, put your cell phone next to it, play the recording, and watch your dog’s reaction. More often than not, your dog will just sniff at it out of curiosity. If that is all he does, make sure to pet and praise him.  If he goes to nudge or paw the doll, correct him by telling him, “EASY” again. Now lie down on the blanket with the doll and the dog. You will see he feels much less threatened when he is included. Continue working on this for a while before bringing your new baby home, and make sure the dog understands the “rules of engagement”
  1. Once baby is born  While Mom and baby are still in the hospital for the first few days, have Dad or whoever is watching the dog bring home the real baby’s unlaundered clothes, and even a few dirty diapers. (Yes, I know this is kind of gross.) Put the clothes that the new baby has already worn on the doll so that the dog can get used to the scent. Praise the dog when he sniffs at the doll in the baby’s clothes appropriately, and if the dog goes to grab at the clothes, make the same correction you made earlier. And let the dog sniff the dirty diaper. These are all scents that the dog must get used to… he’ll be around them for awhile!
  1. dog adjusts to babyHomecoming Day  The last piece of advice is if Dad has been home with the dog while Mom was away having the baby, Dad should be the one to bring the baby in. Your dog has not seen Mom for a few days and may be excited to see her and jump up on her. Mom needs to greet the dog when she comes in and spend a minute or two with him, but also correct his jumping.

In closing, just remember…. Your dog does not do well with change, so it is up to you to help him adjust to everything prior to it happening. While I have heard at times, “My dog took right to the baby and they have been best friends ever since”  … Why take chances when it is easy enough to ensure a good home-coming with a great outcome.

Photo credit: Wayan VotaCC license

Expert Video: Dealing with Sleepwalking in Children

Last updated on September 29th, 2015 at 10:39 pm

In this brief video, a neurologist and sleep expert describes common symptoms and triggers of sleepwalking – a nighttime activity that as many as 20% of children will engage in at some point. She also gives advice on how to manage your child’s sleepwalking behavior before bed and during the night.


Editor’s Note: Video Highlights

  • Sleepwalking-in-childrenAnyone can sleepwalk – any time between the first and second year of life to as late as in their 70s
  • It occurs usually in the first part of the night when we have most of our deep sleep – and occurs as you wake very abruptly from deep sleep
  • Stress is the most common trigger of sleepwalking, but can also be seen in kids who are not very good at letting go at bedtime and carry a lot of mental activity to bed with them
  • There can be other triggers, like needing to go to the bathroom – so make sure they go before bedtime
  • Don’t limit daytime naps in order to prevent nighttime sleepwalking – this can contribute to the problem
  • During an episode, make sure they are safe and lead them gently back into bed before waking them briefly

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 02-16-2015 to 02-22-2015

Last updated on March 6th, 2015 at 02:16 pm

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 9 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
Amid Measles Outbreak, Few Rules Exist Concerning Teacher Vaccinations

How to Spot Anxiety and Depression in Your Child

Last updated on August 29th, 2015 at 02:59 pm

Managing kid stressHow can you determine if your child is experiencing depression or anxiety?  To begin with, you as parents have the most intimate knowledge of your child; so to define “normal behavior” according to some external  “objective“ standard is not only foolish but does not tell you about your own child. The hallmark of any emotional or psychological issues in children is a significant, long term change in your child’s behavior, which cannot be assigned to any particular recent event.  These changes might involve a change in appetite, sleep patterns, social behavior, and school work or attendance.  One might also notice onset of risky behaviors or a lack of interest in the world around him/her.

In those occasions that are clearly visible but also clearly anticipated, such as the loss of a family member or pet, unusual behavior can be expected but for what length of time?  This is indeed the major question and sometimes can only be answered by comparing similar situations in the past that affected your child.  My own feeling is that any such radical behavior might in fact last up to one month or so but really should be expected to diminish after that time.

While some of the observable differences might include lack of interest in things ordinarily enjoyed by your child, sudden intense interest in repetitive movements or “hobbies” or change in temperament may also act as an alert signal.

Your first line of defense should always begin with a visit to your family doctor or Pediatrician who might also have important knowledge about your child.  A total evaluation should be performed to be sure that the changes you see in your child are not caused by physical events.  If your Pediatrician also agrees that this is unusual behavior, or if you feel that even though he/she had a normal medical evaluation, he/she is still showing you signs of emotional distress, your next step might very well be finding a pediatric psychologist or psychiatrist for further evaluation. You might in fact have difficulty locating a pediatric mental health care provider because there is a nationwide shortage of such people.

If you are not having any luck finding such a person I would suggest you get in touch with your closest children’s hospital and inquire.  Remember you are your child’s best historian, ombudsman and support- don’t sell yourself short.


Editor’s Note:  Last Friday we published a post about the high levels of stress and depression felt by incoming college students. It cited the results of a nationwide survey and highlighted an alarming trend: our teens are feeling increasing levels of stress and depression in the face of significant academic expectations and life challenges.  In fact over a third “felt overwhelmed” by the many expectations placed on them.  With suicide the third leading cause of death for college-age students, we need to catch this when they’re young – when we can help them learn coping skills to deal with whatever stress they’re feeling…and give them the support they need to know they’re not alone.

High Levels of Stress/Depression with Incoming College Kids

Last updated on August 29th, 2015 at 02:58 pm

Teenager Girl Worried And Crying OutdoorsThe annual snapshot of incoming college freshmen was recently published (“The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2014” also covered in a New York Times article) and provides yet more data indicating that our teens are feeling high and increasing levels of stress and depression in the face of significant academic expectations and life challenges.

The survey, which has been run for nearly a half-century by an institute at UCLA, covers a wide range of issues and perspectives relevant to recent high school graduates.  The most recent publication showed some concerning trends:

  •  Only 50.7% indicated they had good emotional health – the lowest level ever recorded
  • Over a third of respondents (34.6%) “felt overwhelmed” by the many expectations placed on them – academic or otherwise
  • Nearly 10% of students reported frequently feeling depressed over the previous year – their senior year in high school – a much higher rate than reported just 5 years ago (6.1%)
    • This is a higher rate of depression than seen across the US generally
  • Additionally, students with disabilities or chronic diseases – such as ADHD, learning disabilities, diabetes or autoimmune conditions – report much higher rates of rates of depression (15.5% to 22.4%)

Why does this matter?  Well, the report further demonstrated that students who had suffered from frequent bouts of depression were less likely to be engaged in school – more of them come late to class or fall asleep during lectures and fewer reported studying or working on projects with classmates – all behaviors that can lead to a negative spiral in school.  Furthermore, suicide is the third leading cause of death for college-age students.

However, as a mother of a frequently overwhelmed and stressed-out seventh-grader, the real concern for me is how long have these kids been feeling this way – and what can we do to improve this?? My son often has so much homework that he skimps on sleep and becomes down and moody when under particular pressure.  I’ve sometimes taken to forcing him to go to bed and hand assignments in late for easier classes, just to better juggle the workload. But I know the situation is only going to get worse as he advances to higher grades.

What are your concerns about the pressures on our youth – and what strategies are you trying to help address the issue? We’d love to hear from you!

Common Skin Conditions & Treatments for Kids and Adults

Last updated on August 31st, 2015 at 01:02 am

The facts behind five common skin problems and the treatments available.


Most people develop a wart at some stage in their life, usually by the age of 20.

What are they?

Warts are flesh-coloured lumps, which can be 1mm to more than 1cm across. Warts can appear anywhere, but usually affect the hands and feet. A wart on the foot is called a verruca (plantar wart*). Genital warts appear around the genitals or anus.

What causes warts?

They are caused by infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV), which can be passed on through skin-to-skin contact and sometimes through surfaces such as floors and towels. If you have a wart, you can spread it to other people through close contact. You can also spread it to other parts of your own body.

What’s the treatment?

Most warts go away by themselves, but this can take up to two years. Treatments include:

  • Over-the-counter creams and gels (not for use on genital warts) – ask your pharmacist which ones may be suitable for you
  • Prescription chemicals to be dabbed on to the wart
  • Cryotherapy (freezing), which should be carried out by a practitioner trained in cryotherapy
  • Surgery and laser treatment, but these are not commonly used

There is limited evidence that duct tape placed over the wart can be effective.

These treatments may be painful and the warts may come back.

Do I need to see a doctor?

See your GP (family doctor*) if the wart is bothering you, if you want your GP to treat it, or if treatments from the pharmacy have not worked. If you have genital warts, it’s important to go to your GP or a genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic so you can be given appropriate treatment.

Find out more about treating warts.

Girl applying dermatology cream on skinImpetigo

Impetigo is common in babies and children, but can affect anyone. It usually develops on the face and hands. In babies it affects the nappy (diaper*) area.

What is it?

Impetigo is an infection in the skin. Small blisters appear and burst, leaving yellow, moist, itchy patches that dry to a crust. The skin underneath can be red and inflamed.

What causes impetigo?

It is caused by bacteria that enter the skin through a cut, scratch or damage from an existing skin condition, such as eczema. Impetigo can be spread by direct contact and sharing towels or bedding with someone who has it.

What’s the treatment?

Impetigo is likely to clear up by itself within three weeks. However, it’s very contagious, so antibiotic cream or tablets should be used to get rid of it quickly.

Do I need to see a doctor?

See your GP (family doctor*) for a diagnosis and to prescribe antibiotics. Most people are not contagious after 48 hours of treatment or once their sores have dried. It’s sensible for children not to go to school or nursery until they are no longer contagious.

Find out more about treatment for impetigo.

Read Marilyn’s story of her young son’s impetigo.


Psoriasis affects 2% of people in the UK. It usually begins between the ages of 11 and 45. Psoriasis runs in families, and one-third of people with psoriasis have a close relative with the condition. Psoriasis is not infectious.

What is it?

Psoriasis causes flaky, red patches on the skin. They can look shiny and cause itching or burning. They can be anywhere, but are more common on elbows, knees and the lower back.

What causes psoriasis?

Some of the body’s antibodies attack skin cells by mistake, causing them to reproduce too quickly and build up on the skin. Certain things may make symptoms worse, including alcohol, smoking and some medicines, such as anti-inflammatories (for example, ibuprofen) and beta-blockers (used to treat heart problems). It is not passed on through close contact.

What’s the treatment?

Treatments to reduce the patches depend on their severity. They include:

  • Creams containing vitamin D or vitamin A
  • Steroid creams
  • Tar preparations
  • Exposing the skin to ultraviolet (UV) light
  • Medication taken by mouth or injection

Do I need to see a doctor?

Most people are treated by their GP (family doctor*), but some are referred to a dermatologist (skin specialist).

Find out more about treatment for psoriasis.

Read about Ray’s experience of psoriasis.


Ringworm is common in children, but can affect anyone. It appears on the head, body, groin, feet, nails or beard area.

What is it?

Ringworm is not a worm, but a number of fungal infections that grow in a patch or circle on the skin. It can be a few millimetres to a few centimetres across. The patches or circles look red or silvery and can blister and ooze.

What causes ringworm?

Fungal spores enter the skin through a break, such as a scratch or a patch of eczema. Ringworm can be passed on through direct contact and sharing items such as towels, bedding or combs. It can also be passed on from the floor of shower or swimming pool areas. Pets can pass it to people.

What’s the treatment?

Antifungal creams, powders or tablets, available from the pharmacy, can be effective.

Do I need to see a doctor?

See your GP (family doctor*) if you aren’t sure if it’s ringworm, or if the infection has not responded to pharmacy treatment after two weeks.

Find out about the symptoms of ringworm.


One in 100 people in the UK develops vitiligo. It can occur at any age, but more than half of cases begin before the age of 20. It affects men and women of any skin colour. Vitiligo is not infectious.

What is it?

Vitiligo causes pale white patches on the skin. These patches can occur anywhere, but are more noticeable on areas that are exposed to sunlight, such as the face and hands, and on dark or tanned skin. On the scalp, vitiligo can cause hair to turn white. Patches can be small or large, stay the same size, or grow. Vitiligo cannot be passed on through close contact.

What causes vitiligo?

It is caused by a lack of melanocyte cells, which colour the skin. These cells can be missing because:

  • The immune system isn’t working properly and attacks them
  • The skin has come into contact with certain chemicals or has been severely sunburnt

Vitiligo is also linked to having an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism).

What’s the treatment?

Treatment aims to restore skin colour and control the spread of vitiligo. Treatment can include:

  • Steroid creams
  • Ultraviolet A (UVA) light
  • Disguising the patches with coloured creams, some of which are available on prescription

If vitiligo affects more than 50% of the skin, treatment may involve lightening the healthy skin using prescription creams. It’s important that this treatment is carried out under the supervision of a doctor.

Creams that you can buy without a prescription that claim to lighten skin can contain harmful chemicals, so don’t use them.

Find out more about the risks of skin lightening.

Do I need to see a doctor?

See your GP (family doctor*) to confirm the diagnosis and prescribe treatment.

Find out more about treatment for vitiligo.

Read Elena’s story of life with vitiligo.

Editor’s Note: * clarification provided for our U.S. audience