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The other prince... How do you keep a dog happy when baby arrives?

Three Northern Ireland couples tell Stephanie Bell why a dog really can be a child's best friend

There will be one member of the Royal household who could be feeling a bit put out by the fuss surrounding the arrival of baby Prince George.

Lupo, the beloved Cocker Spaniel pet of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, will now have to learn to share the affection which was lavished on him, especially by Kate who has had him since he was a pup.

Bringing a baby home to a house where there is a family pet is something which every parent needs be mindful of and make careful preparations for.

No matter how trusting and good natured your pet is, the sudden attention which a baby commands can create feelings of resentment and confusion for a dog and if not handled properly could put your child at risk.

Kate and William will no doubt have taken steps to make sure Lupo does not feel left out when they brought their precious bundle home, especially as Lupo was particularly attached to Kate, who he often had to himself when Wills was away with military duties.

Local dog behaviour expert Caroline Millar who has worked with and studied dogs all of her life said there is no doubt Lupo will need to be prepared for the arrival of the new Prince.

"A lot of the time there would have been just Kate and the dog and she would have been giving him about 50% of her attention.

"When William was home the dog would have been getting less of her attention but then he would have been getting attention from William.

"His biggest bond will be with Kate. She will have to do an extra bit of work to make sure the dog does not feel left out now that the baby is here.

"Ideally, when they first bring the baby home, Kate should allow William to carry him and she should go and greet the dog, then allow the dog to greet the baby."

Caroline, who runs Serenity Spa Dog Kennels near Killyleagh, says expectant parents should be preparing their pet dogs for the new arrival a good few months in advance.

She said dogs can sense the sudden change in the house that a new baby brings, especially the excitement and stress. The fear is that if not properly prepared, the dog could view it as a negative experience and feel jealous of the new arrival.

Caroline says: "The dog was the baby and suddenly now doggy is shunned and this new thing has taken its place.

"If you don't prepare the dog, then it can look at the baby in a negative way and they can form an attitude which could be dangerous for the child."

We talked to three mums about how they prepared their pet pooches for the big day when they took their baby home.

'Teasal was our baby before Harry arrived'

Claire Campbell (37), a civil servant from Bangor, has a 17-month-old son Harry and a 10-year-old Springer Spaniel called Teasal. Claire is married to Chris (36) who is also a civil servant.

She says: "We got Teasal from the Assisi Animal Sanctuary about four years ago. She had been a gun dog but had gone deaf from the gun shots and was put into the shelter by his owner.

"She was our baby before Harry came along. She was such an important part of our lives that even when we went out at night for dinner we would talk about her.

"At that point she was the centre of our world. We were really worried about how she would react to a baby in the house. When I was in hospital having Harry, I sent one of his baby-grows home for my husband to put in the dog's bed so that she could sniff it.

"When we brought the baby home, we stood outside the door and let Teasal sniff his head first before we brought him inside.

"She is a really placid dog but we knew we had to give her her place. She is very good with Harry, who is quite boisterous now.

"When Harry was about five or six months, he noticed her and would put his hand out to her and touch her. Now he is walking, she is very careful about where she walks and it is as if she just knows he is very important to us.

"She is always in the same room as us and has the run of the house. She follows me everywhere and when Harry was a baby and I was nursing him, she never left our sides.

"Teasal gets just as much affection as she ever did and my husband goes out of his way to ensure it and would give her lots of one-to-one attention.

"I would say William and Kate will have been very sensible about their dog and give it its place when the new baby is brought home."

'Ellie remains a big part of our family'

Claire Loftus (30) from Crossgar, a human resource worker with a local bank, and husband Stephen (36), a chef, have one daughter Lucy (14 months) and a Westie called Ellie.

Claire says: "We've had Ellie for eight years and she was very much our baby. She got a lot of attention from both of us. She is quite lively but has a very good temperament.

"When I was pregnant we were a bit apprehensive about how she would react to the baby.

"You hear about problems with animals and children and because Ellie got so much attention we knew her nose could be put out a bit when the baby came home and was getting our attention.

"She usually would have snuggled up to my husband on the sofa but when I was pregnant she would snuggle into my bump; it was as if she knew.

"My mother-in-law, who looks after Ellie when we are on holiday, kept her for the first week when we brought Lucy home as we wanted to have time to get used to the baby and all that we needed to do.

"Ellie came for visits that week and we would let her smell the baby and sniff her baby seat, gradually introducing her to Lucy.

"My biggest concern was her barking and waking the baby when she came back home but thankfully I've learnt that babies sleep through anything.

"Now that Lucy has got bigger and wants to touch Ellie we are teaching her how to do so gently and not to pull her tail. Ellie has her own bed in the living room and Lucy knows that that is her space and she is not allowed to go there.

"My husband made a real fuss over the dog when Lucy came home and we still do as it is important that she feels part of the family.

"Kate and William are both sensible people and I would imagine they have made all the necessary preparations and thought of everything before introducing their baby to their pet dog."

'Ernie had his own toy box and lots of cuddles'

Cheryl Young (40) from Belfast is a dog kennel care worker and has three sons, Adam (21), Peter (16) and Ty (10). She has two dogs Leon a Labrador and Max, a greyhound.

She says: "Before I had my first child I had a collie cross called Ernie who was my baby. He was just everything to me. He was about a year old when Adam came along. I was worried that because Ernie got so much of my attention how he would react to Adam.

"Friends kept telling me that he was so pampered that I would have to get rid of him because he would be jealous.

"When I brought Adam home I was careful to keep Ernie in his own routine, walking him and giving him lots of cuddles, ensuring he didn't feel left out.

"He had his own toy box and Adam had his own toy box and I never had a problem with him, probably because his life didn't change that much.

"When other people come into your house they tend to make a fuss of the baby and forget the dog but I made sure that they treated Ernie the way they always had and I think that would be important for William and Kate to do as well.

"Adam and Ernie grew up partners in crime, really best friends and I never had any problems. I think it depends on the dog's nature and how you treat it.

"I've known people who would have pushed a doll in a pram before the baby arrives to help the dog cope with the change that was ahead.

"I think it is important that you treat them as you would do a child, why not, if you wouldn't do something to a child then why would you do it to a dog?"


Those vital safety guidelines...

Advice on preparing your dog for baby's arrival by Caroline Millar (pictured below):

* The arrival of a baby into a home with a dog should start several months in advance. For example, commands such as "stay" or "sit" should be very well understood and followed by your dog. Once doggy is familiar with these commands, practise then reward with a treat.

* Picking up a doll, walking back and forwards, cradling it in your arms, will make the dog curious; again practise "sit" and "stay" commands. Wrap the doll in blankets to resemble the real thing.

* Dogs are very curious about sounds and as baby will be crying and gurgling we don't want these noises to start uncontrollable barking or frighten the child. You can buy CDs online that resemble these sounds so that when you play them around your dog, the sound becomes familiar, with little reaction when baby arrives. Friends' or neighbours' babies are also another option to get doggy used to these sounds.

* Most babies are born in hospital, so doggy will be at home. Another great idea is to take one of baby's blankets and place it where your dog sits or sleeps. This introduces your baby's scent to your dog.

l The big day arrives, you arrive home with baby, so what next? Let someone else take baby inside and when you see your dog, greet it with love and show doggy that you are happy to see him or her.

* It goes without saying that you should never leave a child or baby alone with a dog at any stage. It will take time for your dog to get used to the new smells, sounds and excitement in the house. As the weeks go by and when the hype dies down, you should be well on the way to a happy family.

Belfast Telegraph


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