We’re expecting a baby. How do we prepare our dog?

With a baby on the way, there’s a lot to do. Add “prepare the dog” to your list, because, no matter how laid-back your dog is, having a new baby in the house will be a significant event for him.

Begin by brushing up on your dog’s training. Think of training as a means to communicate with your dog—you will need to communicate with him more than ever once the baby arrives. If you haven’t already, enroll your dog and yourself in a training class. Ideally, have every adult or older child in your household participate. Your dog should he able to sit, stay, and come on command, and walk calmly on a leash—skills that will make life with a dog and baby safer and easier.

Next, consider how you will keep the baby and dog apart, because the most important rule for living with a baby and a dog is this: supervise or separate. This is especially important when the baby begins to be mobile and is able to approach the dog on his or her own, but it’s also essential when the baby is a helpless infant.

Sadly, every year a small number of newborn infants are killed by the family dog. The dogs are not usually aggressive but instead are protective and attempt to help a crying baby by bringing him or her to the parents. Other dogs are prey driven and see the baby as a small animal such as a squirrel or rabbit. Carefully watch large or powerful dogs and dogs who are strongly prey driven. Never leave a dog alone with access to a newborn baby (even if an adult is in the next room, monitoring the baby with a baby monitor) or allow them to sleep in the same room. Choose a safe place in your home for your dog that is not too far from the family, where you can easily confine him. Either crate-train your dog or otherwise safely confine him when you cannot closely supervise his interaction with your infant.

Most importantly, don’t neglect your dog when the baby arrives. Be sure he gets individual attention, socialization, and exercise, all of which will help him to deal with the exciting changes happening in your home.