Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Pooches: How to Introduce Dogs and Babies; When 4-Legged Kids meet the New 2-Legged Kid

Awhile ago, we were having a conversation with some high school friends who were telling us it was an inevitable cycle that once people have kids, the pets who were once the center of their lives are ignored and
regulated to the basement. A mini-argument ensued that this isn't always true, and there are always ways to prepare and make a smooth transition.
So, we started talking to some of our dog friends to see how they made it work.
Gorgeous brindle Lily is part of our Chicago SociaBulls group (and Miss M's fellow alumni!) who just welcomed her own adorable baby. We loved hearing their experiences, from 'Lily days', positive associations with the baby, keeping a routine and ways for Lily to be involved as she became a big sister:
When my huband and I first learned we were pregnant, we laughed, and then talked about how to tell our parents, our friends, or jobs…and our dog.
Lily (a mastiff/boxer mix) had been the center of our lives for the last 4 years. When we got married the first thing we did was seek out a rescue dog to adopt. Lily found us; we like to say, since her overall persona was WAY more than we thought we were looking for at the time. (AKA-lacked training, social skills, or restraint of ANY kind) We were that family who took our dog everywhere and couldn’t wait to get home from vacations because we missed her so much. And in return, Lily gave us unconditional love and freely shared her slobbery kisses with anyone who would give her the time of day.
Since it was us who decided to throw this monkey wrench into our relationship, we started researching heavily. Since my husband and I would scoff at those people who gave up their dog due to issues surrounding their new children, this became incredibly important to us.  How could we integrate our dog with a new baby? 
Disclaimer: We are not experts, merely researched and tried with positive results

During the pregnancy, we would purposely do the following things:
1) Have Lily meet other children and babies alike. We wanted to see her reaction to little squirmy ones up to four years old with no fear. We enlisted the help of family and friends and those bacon treats she loves so much. We enforced the word gentle with her actions and treats. We gave her ample time and taught the older children how to approach her slowly. We tested her as often as we could and gave loads of praise whenever possible.
2)We mentioned the baby’s name often when she was around, letting her get used to the sound of a new name in the house. We would say the baby’s name and then give her a treat if she wagged her tail or looked to be paying attention. We wanted her associating the baby’s name with positive things.
3) We kept her involved in changes. Like when we put together the crib and re-arranged a familiar room. 

4) Two weeks before our due date, we had a “Lily” day-where we took her to get a bath, and cruise a few of our favorite dog stores.

Right after our baby Amelia was born we followed these few guidelines:
1) My husband brought home some of the blankets she slept in so that Lily could get her scent beforehand. 

2) We also were lucky enough to have her stay with the owner of the Dog Daycare that she was most familiar with. (Tip: If you don’t have someone that they are comfy with to stay while you spend 2-5 days in the hospital, start taking her somewhere now!) Our daycare even offered to take her whenever my labor started…which happened to be at midnight. Lily got to go somewhere she already knew-even when the chaos of us leaving that night could have easily overtaken her. 

3) My husband picked up Lily a day early from daycare and spent some time with her as a break from the hospital. (I was in 5 days due to a C-section) Then she spent the last night with friends who had a pug that Lily loved. All familiar things, all fun to her.

 Living with Baby:
Then came the longer haul. After we were home and everyone started to get settled, we noticed that Lily was pouting. Big time. She was spending a lot of time curled up in a ball and giving heavy sighs as we walked around the house. Or for lack of a better scenario, she seemed totally depressed and displaced at times. So, we compensated.

1) We made sure to always pet her when we had a free hand. We had her come with us when we took our baby anywhere in the house. She came with us for diaper changes and wherever the baby slept (which is where mommy slept), Lily slept there too. (In most cases, it was in our bed while Amelia slept in the portable crib next to the bed)

2) We tried very hard to not disrupt Lily’s schedule. Although that was impossible when she thought those 3am feedings signaled the first walk of the day and breakfast. So, we would take her out and give her a treat after the baby went back to sleep. 

3) When she would come near Amelia, lots of praise. Even when she decided to start sharing her slobbery kisses with her little bitty head.

4) We always use caution-after all, Lily is an animal. Ear tugging may be in the future, so we watch their interactions very closely for now!
 Overall, these small things are what we did to make sure that both of our ‘kids’ feel comfortable and happy.  After all, we believe strongly in Amelia growing up loving animals like my husband and I did-so anything we can do to start that process from the beginning-we see as a win/win for both of their lives. 

We loved reading this and seeing all the research and effort made to make all the family members comfortable with the big change. How has everyone else's experiences with dogs and children worked?

PS. Another friend's experiences with two pitbulls and a new baby here. 


Debra@Peaceabull said...

This was a very timely post as we are in the process of getting Ray (our 7month old puppy)ready to receive a new baby in the house. We'll probably be blogging about the progress soon as well. :-)

Anonymous said...

It is so good to read about people who did everything they could to make the transition as seamless as possible. Obviously, there were a few bumps in the road, but it seems like they figured everything out! Thanks for sharing!

Rachel said...

What a great post! Thanks so much for sharing!! We don't have children but always think the same... It is so sad to hear of all these people giving up their dogs and all because a baby has arrived. What a positive message. I think that just like with lily, with proper introductions and lots of research it doesn't have to be a bad experience. Thanks again for sharing your story!

Tanaya said...

Perfect timing! We are gearing up to introduce our own little one to our pittie and two cats in just two months! Thank you.

Kirsten (peacefuldog) said...

What great people--they really put in the time and effort to make sure the transition was easy for Lily. A bit of extra work, but then, anyone who is averse to extra work should probably not be having a baby! I wish every expecting family would prioritize existing family members' needs in this way.

Froggy said...

1. I miss Brindle Lily SO MUCH!
2. This post is amazing, thank you SO much for these tips. I am kinda of scared of bringing a baby in to the house because Maize hasn't really been around kids and loud noises scare her. Your post was super helpful and calmed my nerves (not that a baby is coming any time soon BUT it's always good to know tips)

Taylor G said...

While we are not planning on children in the near future, we knew that it would eventually happen. Since we have got Mugsy we routinely mess with him while he is sleeping. Pulling on his tail, ears, his awkwardly long tounge, anything that we felt a small child would do. Now he is immune to this torture and I feel confident he would not react to a child doing the same.

Kristine said...

This is such an important subject as I have spoken with so many people who seem to think that babies and dogs can't and shouldn't mix. Clearly this is very untrue as many families are formed with a combination of children and animals and all works out just fine. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

Anonymous said...

super helpful... kids are in the plans for us at some point... thanks so much for sharing your experience and how it worked for you!

Keri @ Trinitys Love said...

I think the people who say that the dogs "go to the basement" really never had their dogs as their babies. That being said you would always want to give your animals the opportunity to eaise into this new way of life. Not only with dogs but with cats to. My Cookie Dough would wonder what the new thing in the room was & why she was not being pet. This is a great post! I'm glad to see people incorporating their pets into raising a child! I hope to do that some day!

Mary said...

Thanks for the shout-out! We hope to show that not only can you successfully integrate a baby into your life with your dog(s), but that pit bulls and babies are not such a bad combination after all.

I liked reading another person's perspective. Almost none of the blogs I read in which people have babies and dogs have discussed how they get by or how they prepared their dog(s). Or, they do relegate their dogs to the basement, which is so sad. I love seeing the pictures of adorable Lily with little Amelia. What could be better than having your child grow up with that companion?

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