Dear Old Trainer: My husband and I have a wonderful 6-year-old boxer named Champ. He comes in the house anytime he wants and stays in at night. I am having my first child this fall and I am worried about whether having a dog in close proximity to an infant presents a health risk. Also, does Champ need any training to learn how to deal with the baby?
-- Wanda, Modesto
A: Wanda, not only is Champ not a health risk, but your child will be healthier than a child from a pet-free home.
We have known for years that a baby raised with a dog suffers from fewer allergies. Now, new studies show that a child suffers fewer upper respiratory ailments and is healthier overall if there is a dog in the house.
This information comes from the June issue of Pediatrics Journal (The Old Trainer and the pack love to curl up with the newest issue of Pediatric Journal). European researchers found that babies who lived with dogs were 31 percent more likely to be in good health than their counterparts who didn't. Also, children with pet dogs were 44 percent less likely to develop ear infections and 29 percent less likely to have used antibiotics during their first year.
Children in homes with dogs were healthy 72.2 percent of the time, while those in homes without were healthy 64.8 percent of the time.
And that doesn't include the emotional and psychological advantages of growing up with a dog. Check any of the hundreds of videos on YouTube that show dogs playing with and loving on toddlers and you will see what an advantage it is for a child.
Dogs naturally love children and understand how to treat them. It is ingrained in their DNA. Their wolf ancestors loved new pups and the entire pack was energized on the day a female introduced her new pups to it. The wolf retains that trait to this day as you can see in the landmark documentary, "Wolves at Our Door." Watch the documentary for free at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Pd6tlCbm5s
So don't worry about Champ. You don't have to teach him a thing. He will be as happy as you are with the new member of his pack and will instinctively know how to behave. And the baby will be better off with Champ around as a pal.
DOG OWNERS ALERT! -- The FDA has issued its third warning in five years about the danger of chicken jerky pet treats made in China. Thousands of dogs across the country have died or become ill from eating the treats. Never buy any pet product made in China. If you buy it by mistake, throw it away.
Also, Diamond Pet Foods has recalled a number of different brands of their products. Check the company website at www.diamondpet.com for a list of brands.
Jack Haskins writes as The Old Trainer. A trainer for more than 30 years, he has rescued, trained, and placed more than 2,000 dogs. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org