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.