Dear Mr. Dad: I’m pregnant with our first child and I’m due in about four moinths. One of the things I’m worried about is our dog, a 150-pound male mastiff, who is truly a part of our family and not just a pet. Some friends of ours say that it’s dangerous to have a giant dog around a newborn and that we should start looking for a new home for him. Is it? And is there some way to prepare our dog and keep our baby safe?
A: There’s no way to predict with 100 percent accuracy how animals are going to react in any given situation, but you can get some hints by asking yourself these questions: What is the dog’s personality? Is he aggressive or territorial? Does he growl or bite? Does he jump on you, the furniture, or guests? Has he spent time with children? Does he like children? How protective is he of his toys? Could he possibly confuse a neatly wrapped up baby with a chewable toy? Does he bark when he wants attention? Does he understand and obey basic commands? I’m sure you can figure out which questions need a Yes answer and which need a No.
But no matter how wonderful your dog is, there’s always some risk. According to Michael Wombacher, author of “Good Dog, Happy Baby,” of the 4.7 million people who get bitten by dogs in the U.S. every year, 80 percent are children under five. Eighty percent of those bites are to the face and happen during feeding, petting, or playing. Most of those dogs live in the victim’s home and have no history of biting.