I still remember Charlie. If a dog could be accused of being spoiled, it was that Cocker Spaniel that my friends adopted shortly after being married. For three years our group was inundated with the latest Charlie stories and pictures, just as though Charlie were their human baby. It never occurred to any of us that when they found out they were expecting a real human baby, the first thing they'd do was take Charlie to a shelter. "We just couldn't take chances on how he'd be with a baby," they explained later. We never knew if Charlie was adopted. We only hope that when they were expecting their second child, they don't worry that the first one might hurt it. Unfortunately, their reaction is not unusual. One of the most common reasons people give up the dogs they once the considered the baby of the family is because they are now expecting a human baby. On the other hand, one of the most common reasons people get a dog is for the children. There's no need to give up a dog or even postpone getting a puppy just because a baby's on the way, assuming you have the energy and patience to deal with both a baby person and a baby dog. But first, some words of caution. Don't get a puppy as a practice baby. You would not adopt a child as a practice child. A dog is for life, not practice. Don't get a puppy to teach a child responsibility. It doesn't. If the puppy has to depend on the child to be walked and fed, it's going to be a frustrated and hungry puppy, for reasons it had nothing to do with. Children can help care for a dog, but ultimately the responsibility is yours. Don't leave dogs and babies or young children unsupervised. Children may know better than to tease or hurt the dog, but that doesn't always stop them. And dogs are dogs, with the capacity to injure small children seriously. One of the Kids The best time to introduce a dog to children is during the dog's critical stages of socialization, that is, between the ages of eight and 12 weeks. But that's only the case if the children act properly around the puppy, taking care not to hurt or scare him. Children should sit on the floor when they meet the puppy, otherwise it's too tempting to start playing "chase the puppy" and end up frightening him. It's also too easy to drop or fall on the puppy. Children must be taught that puppies can't be handled roughly. Dogs and young children should always be supervised for both of their well being. This is a good chance to teach not only your children, but their friends, safe manners around dogs. When children are around dogs they don't know, they should never squeal and run, as it can elicit a chase response in the dog. Kids should never run up to a dog, throw their arms around a dog's neck or tease a dog. Also, children should never bother a dog when it has a bone or is eating. New Baby in the House Puppyhood is also the best time to meet babies, but it's never too late to do so, carefully. A baby's cries may sound a lot like some of your dog's favorite toys. It's tempting to be overly protective of your child, but trying to hide your baby from your dog or holding your baby out of reach of a dog is quite similar to what you would do if you wanted to interest your dog in a new toy. It will only make your dog more curious or make him leap up to investigate, scaring you to the point you don't trust him. Instead, let your dog meet your baby through a playpen or baby gate if you're uncomfortable. Lavish attention on your dog when the baby is in the room. Have him sit and then give him a treat. Continue these positive behaviors as you move closer to the baby. Always make a fuss over the dog when the baby is around so the dog will associate the baby with good times. Your dog may have been your baby until you brought this new infant home. If you suddenly ignore your dog to dote upon the new little one or hustle your dog out of the room just because the new baby is in there, you're setting your pet up for a big case of jealousy. Your dog will probably grow to love your baby, but no matter what, don't take foolish chances. Never leave a dog and baby alone unsupervised. What Age? Any dog can be good with children, but adult dogs may have prior bad experiences -- or none at all. If you adopt an adult dog, ask about its' past history with children, or ask the shelter to test him. As long as he's okay with kids, an adult may be easier for you to cope with! What Dog? Every breed of dog can be good with children, but some make more sense than others. Consider these factors: Size: Large dogs can overpower or knock over small children, and can be too powerful for even an older child to take for a walk. They can also inflict more damage if they do bite. But very small dogs are too fragile to do well with young children. In general, small to medium breeds are best. Activity: Lethargic breeds may not be playful enough for children, and may be irritated at a child's constant efforts to get them to do something. Overly excitable dogs may feed off an already hectic household, driving you insane. In general, a playful but not overly energetic breed is best. Trainability: An independent dog can be extremely frustrating for a child, and a danger to both if the dog decides to run off. Trainable dogs give the child a sense of accomplishment by teaching the dog tricks. In general, a biddable breed is the best playmate for a child. Don't forget: Sporting breeds, such as Spaniels and Retrievers, can be very active, as can herding breeds, such as Corgis and Border Collies. Hounds, such as Beagles and Whippets, can be independent, as can Terriers.