Meet the modern day Cruella De Vil:

We are having a baby and need to get rid of the dog. Our dog walker has offered to take him, and the other option is euthanasia. I am concerned about the fact that our dog walker may not be as vigilant in keeping our dog away from situations where he may bite — we muzzle him, never let him off leash and always put him away when people come over. If we transfer custody to our dog walker and the dog bites someone under his care, I want to be sure liability does not pass to us — we have deeper pockets.

The first thought that came to mind: Watch your step, kid.

The second: This is a case of instant gratificationitis.

This woman has had her dog, a cockapoodle, for more than eight years. She took him to one puppy class, and beyond that, the dog had no training. She told me she consulted her vet eight years ago about some behavioral problems and he told her nothing could be done. Taking those highly suspect words as truth, she gave it no more thought. Until now.

Now she's pregnant and the pooch is apparently tantamount to a dirty disposable diaper. Let's hope the kid fares better.

It's true that you have to take precautions with aggressive dogs. Muzzles can be useful, keeping the dog confined when you have visitors may be necessary, and a dog should always be walked on a leash — for the dog's safety, as well as the safety of passers-by.

Those are tools that allow a dog owner to keep control over the dog and any potentially dangerous situations. However, they do nothing to teach the dog. They do nothing to improve the dog's behavior. They do nothing to better the dog's relationship with people, including its owner.

It's also true that a dangerous dog should not be around children. There are ways to keep them separate, but those require a degree of diligence, dedication and responsibility that this woman clearly does not possess. The solution for her problem at this late date is to solicit the services of a lawyer, draw up a legal transfer of custody from Cruella to her dog walker, and wish the dog a better life.

The way to prevent finding yourself in a similar mess is think ahead before bringing home a new dog. Cruella didn't think 15 minutes beyond her current needs, much less 15 years.

If you can't commit wholeheartedly to caring for the little guy for the duration — 10 to 15 years — don't bring him home at all. If you know you'd like to have a child at some point within that time frame, research child-friendly breeds, make sure you invest in the necessary training, and make sure you study up well in advance on how to introduce the two of them. There are steps you can take to ensure a smooth transition.

And remember: Never leave a small child, much less an infant, alone with a dog, no matter how gentle and trustworthy the dog. Accidents happen. Dogs don't know babies from squirrels. You must teach the child how to handle the dog and the dog how to handle the child. This will take time. But believe me, your patience and diligence will be rewarded. There's nothing like watching a child and their dog grow to be best friends.

Woof!


Dog trainer Matthew "Uncle Matty" Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series "WOOF! It's a Dog's Life!" Send your questions to [email protected] or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619. © Creators Syndicate Inc.