Thursday, August 1, 2013

Pooches: On Dogs and Babies

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. We loved reading this getting ready for baby series, plus another friend's experiences with two pitbulls and a new baby here. 
Plus, being a single dog parent.
Check our Facebook page for more photos and information beyond the blog.


Anonymous said...

I don't have children, but I have a ton of nieces and nephews. As the babies came, we'd do similar things to prepare Quizz for their arrival. The parents were always willing to bring a receiving blanket over early so he could become accustomed to the new baby scent. Of course, Quizz's favorite thing to kiss in the early days was the toes. No matter how prepared, keeping an eye on the interaction and providing a safe environment is the key to success.

Regina Hart said...

I applaud Lilly's people for being so loving and responsible. It is great to hear about families who put forth the effort to make sure that their pets are not neglected when a new baby arrives. Everyone, including the new child, will benefit! I'm sure it was/is a great deal of work, but the rewards are many. Kudos!

Heatherkay said...

I'm sure most of the people who read your blog also read hers, but Love and a 6-foot Leash ( had a whole series of getting ready for baby. All the stuff your friends did, plus a few more, like taking the dog for walks with the stroller, even before the baby arrives.

SherBear said...

I never understand people who give up their dog or neglect their dog when they have a baby - my older sister's first word was the dog's name, so clearly my parents still made Rascal a priority!!

Nala's first real experience with a baby was with my aunt and uncle's new baby. I wasn't worried as she loves children, but she took the baby love to an entirely new level! Everywhere the baby went, there was Nala wagging her tail. My mom still talks about when my uncle dropped the bottle cap - Nala ran under the table, grabbed it and brought it back to him! Important moment as at the time my mom still had some reservations about me getting a pitbull (this was shortly after I adopted her) - she later said out of all the dogs in the family (there are a lot), Nala is the one she trusts the most around children :-)

Corbin said...

Lots of baby/dog postings lately! Thankfully we're in no rush for kids, and will wait until Corbin is much older and calmer. Not sure how he'd react to having a little one in the house.
-Corbin's momma, Jenn

Anonymous said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing

bigalrlz said...

Our son just celebrated his first birthday, so we have spent the last year integrating him into our 'pack'/family. We did many of the ideas suggested here, and it's gone MOSTLY well. One thing we've done lots of from the very beginning is long stroller/pup walks. The biggest issue we've been having is not with our 'pitties'(Who LOVE Baby) but our Chihuahua, he's taken to randomly barking for attention, which can be extremely upsetting to a sleeping baby (and tired parents)

Anonymous said...

I read somewhere recently that a dog is often a couples first child and when they eventually have human children, the dog becomes...a dog. It made me sad to think that happens. I love to hear how people work to make it work for all the 'kids' and don't seek to demote the dog!

Two French Bulldogs said...

We wish every buddy would read this. Volunteering for the French Bulldog Rescue Network, you hear stories of people owning a Frenchie it's whole life and suddenly wanting to get rid of it because a baby arrived. Say What!!
Benny & Lily

sweetemaline said...

I love hearing about a family who continued to make their dog a priority even after introducing a baby into the mix! Loved this!

Emily @ Our Waldo Bungie

Anonymous said...

It makes my heart happy to hear about families who make sure their pups are prepared for baby and do whatever they need to so that everyone is comfortable!

Pup Fan said...

Absolutely fantastic post. We've been having quite the conversation about the issue of kids and dogs on my blog and on the blog's Facebook page this week, and your post is exactly what I needed to read! I love hearing success stories like this one. :)

maddeelou said...

My son is almost thirteen now and we had smaller dogs (2 PBGVs) when we brought him home but everybody got along famously and I think Ben is a better person because he was brought up in a house where animals are part of the family. He is very kind and compassionate and loves animals himself.

Here is a great response to somebody who doesn't quite see things the same way.

Bella Wolfe said...

Great tips, thank you so much for sharing. My husband and I are almost ready to bring a non-furry child into our family, but want to make sure the transition is a happy one for our GSD and Staffy. So this was a huge help!

caitlin said...

This was fascinating! Loved how they handled the situation and so glad it's working out!

Anonymous said...

I am so impressed with this family. The amount of thought and research they put in to this is phenomenal -- if only all people were the same. It breaks my heart, just as they said, when families immediately give up a dog due to a new baby. These folks are living proof that with a little extra planning, it's entirely possible and also a very positive experience for everyone. I grew up with a ton of animals, and I wouldn't have had it any other way. I plan on raising my kids like that, too. Brilliant read. Wish you all the best :-)

Kolchak Puggle said...

I really just want to high five this family and then maybe hug somebody? I do hope to add tiny humans to our house one day and it will be my priority to make sure the dogs (and I) are prepared for it.

goaliegurl said...

We have had our Lab/Aussie mix for about two and a half years now. She was an 8 month old farm dog (not housebroken, tons of energy, no manners, ate everything in sight, and quite a force to be reckoned with at 60+ lbs!) when we adopted her and it was a very stressful time. I worked really hard with her, training, socializing, and lots of loving. She had more than one serious accident in the first year (got attacked by two dogs when we were minding our own business, got her tongue caught in a paper shredder - I didn't even know it was possible and it's not listed in any puppy-proofing books, cut her foot which kept reopening, etc.) We went through so much together, she definitely became our baby!

Then we found we were expecting a human baby. We welcomed a baby girl the day after Christmas 2012 (8 mos ago). While expecting, I also was concerned about the transition and how it might affect Sparks. She is such a sweetie, but sometimes very exuberant. We also tried to get her to meet and interact with as many kids as possible. We worked on brushing up on basic commands, staying calm-submissive (I love Cesar!) and kept giving her as much love and exercise as possible. I had already been working with her to walk calmly with shopping carts so a stroller wasn't much different. I had also worked on teaching her to let me touch her while eating, playing in her food while she ate it, etc. I tried to think of every scenario I could imagine!

We had a home birth so it wasn't possible to introduce her to baby things before baby came home, but we let her carefully sniff and tried to stay calm and positive and supportive. She did great - more curious than anything - and she is very gentle and careful and respectful around the baby. Considering how she destroys her own toys, I was concerned she would steal baby's toys - but she leaves them alone now.

Now we are entering the "mobile" phase with the baby and that is a new challenge. Sparks does get up and leave when the baby comes after her, but is very careful to go around baby politely. We have tried to get out and walk as much as possible, even taking baby along to the dog park, etc. whenever we can. It's not always easy, especially when I'm so tired! But Sparks has gracefully coped with the changes in her schedule, the screaming baby, and a little less attention. We try as hard as we can to still include her as much as we can!

There is some truth to the saying that when a baby comes, the dog becomes a dog. You realize that as much as you love your sweet pet, they cannot compare to your child. Even so, I love Sparks deeply and look forward to seeing my daughter grow up with her! I hope we can continue to still make each transition as easy as possible for Sparks. She is a treasured part of our family, and there was never a question of whether she would stay with us after baby came!

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