Where do I start with this one. James and I have 3 dogs, 2 Siberian Huskies and a Husky Cross rescue girlie. They are family. All very different and all equally as mad as a box of frogs, but that helps them fit right in. I volunteer for animal rescues and I’m co-founder of SRAN:Sophie’s Refuge for Animals in Need, a local rescue in Nottingham and one of the most common reasons for giving up the family dog (or cat, rabbit, turtle, etc etc) is “We have a new baby.”
I got pregnant and at the same time added a new puppy to the family – It was completely nuts, but we knew what we wanted and knew that no matter what, the dogs weren’t going anywhere and neither was the baby so we made it work, and really it’s not been that hard. The pregnancy and a new pup was a nightmare, but not because of the pup, the pregnancy was a difficult one and I was very ill, so looking after and training whilst James worked was my worst nightmare, but still I never though “He needs to go!”. He was our new baby after all and all we could think was ‘Well if our baby is loud or messy or cheeky or a million other negative thing, we won’t sell him/her or give them a way, so why should it be any different for the dogs?’
Anyhoo, I digress, my point is, even though you will inevitably have people put their two cents worth in and tell you it’s a bad idea to have dogs and babies, “It’s an accident waiting to happen” or the more obvious statement where they think you’re having a baby and lost your common sense along the way (maybe you have!) and boldly say “You’ll have to be careful.” I mean, honestly, I was pregnant, not brain damaged, I am well aware of the potential risks, probably even more so than ‘Joe Bloggs’ who felt the need to make it their business.
Frustrations aside, dogs and kids work well together, provided the parents are astute and well versed in the basics of dog behaviour and body language and possess a modicum of basic common sense.
- During your pregnancy don’t shun your dogs, even if the last thing you feel like doing is walking them, cuddling them, feeding them, having them drool and waft hot smelly fish breath on you, make time for them each day – reassure them that even though there are changes happening they are still important and your love and care for them won’t change. Dog’s are super sensitive to changes in body language, posture, smell and even sounds and probably know baby is there way before you do!
- If there are rooms in the house you plan to keep them out of which they have previously been allowed, start early in training them to sleep elsewhere and not to be stressed by the new limitations on their freedom.
- Baby sounds – Play all kinds of baby sounds, loudly, all through your pregnancy – Youtube is a great resources for yelling, screaming, crying, laughing, noisy babies and kids. This will acclimatise your pets to the new arrival’s sounds in advance so they don’t get scared, anxious, overly inquisitive etc.
- Let the dogs investigate all items you buy for baby until it’s no longer of interest to them – clothes, cot, moses basket, pram, high chair, toys, bouncers, bedding, everything. Last thing you need is for them to want to eat, play or pee on it when baby comes home!
- Before baby comes home from the hospital, have a family member bring home blankets and clothes smelling of the baby to let the dogs sniff and rub it on their body too to exchange scent. If possible, take the blankets and clothes that have been rubbed on the dogs back to the hospital to rub on baby. Again, scent transference.
- If you have more than one dog at home, I recommend allowing each doggy member to sniff and greet baby individually – just so it’s not overwhelming for all parties and you have more control over the situation should you need to hold a rather boisterous, enthusiastic dog back who’s desperate to meet the new family member (speaking from experience with our Bitch – Yuna!)
- How you proceed after initial intros is up to you, however, we kept the dogs out of the room for the first few weeks and allowed them in one at a time to say hello a few times a day, just because they are strong, boisterous dogs and it was the easiest way to manage the situation and ensured Lizzie didn’t get hurt accidentally. Make sure you have a supply of long lasting, healthy treats for the dogs to entertain themselves whilst they are separated from you and baby – stuffed kongs, raw bones etc work a treat!
- From about 3 months we allowed the dogs in the same room together with her and by this time they were used to her presence so didn’t immediately flock to her and demand to lick, sniff and general get in the way, in fact, for the most part she is ignored, except first thing in the morning and when we come home from being out – All pack members must be greeted with waggy bums, licks and woos – This is more than acceptable and Lizzie loves it 🙂
Things are really good with Lizzie and the dogs, especially her growing relationship with our eldest boy who is 3yrs old, Mjolnir. He loves her and she loves him and honestly, the bond is palpable. She, much to my displeasure, shares her food with him because she LOVES when he licks her hands (and feet and head) and he loves the food, so she’s already got him wrapped around her finger with positive reward based training methods lol! Mjolnir is so gentle as well, which makes it a wonderful relationship to observe without too much worry he’s going to accidentally knock her over, smash her with a paw or nibble when she’s smeared with some fruit/veg/porridge etc He is never far from her side in the house and we find the older Lizzie gets the more interactive she wants to be with him. It started with watching him when he was nearby in her line of sight, this progressed to smiling at him, then babbling at him, now she laughs when he licks her and actively reaches out to touch him – Even though she is very little, we are reinforcing something called “Gentle Hands”: A concept we hope she learns quickly when petting animals, that soft gentle stroking on certain areas of their body is acceptable, but poking, slapping, kicking, pulling etc is not permitted at all. Right now she holds her hand out mostly for licks but has on occasion grabbed his ear hair, lip, paw or tail which we promptly remove and praise Mjolnir for not reacting. The other dogs are less interested so she’s not really petted them so much.
This morning was just wonderful to watch. Picture this: I’m sat on our bed and Lizzie is sat on my knee, Mjolnir is to my right, lounging and watching Lizzie play with her hands and watch her daddy work. Tentatively he reached his head forward and touched one of her outstretched hands with his nose – Instantly she turned to look at him and gave him the biggest grin. I couldn’t help but smile. Lizzie flexed her fingers, possibly an invitation for Mjolnir to do it again or to lick or maybe she wanted to be closer to touch him, but regardless, Mjolnir complied and stretched his nose out again and this time started to lick her little hand and she rewarded him with a smile, followed by a squeal of delight and some hearty chuckles. By this point I was beaming with joy and pride. Lizzie kicked her little legs with glee and Mjolnir crept closer so he could sniff her ears and head and maybe give them a wash too (he did!), Lizzie loved it, so much she reached for his ear and lip and held on whilst I hastily removed them from her grasp, but Mjolnir didn’t even bat an eye or miss a lick.She kicked her legs and smiled some more and Mjolnir ducked his head and rubbed it on the bed and pawed a little in gentle play, he wanted to play with her and she with him, but alas, she is still a little too small, but in the not too distant future I foresee these two being partners in crime when it comes to mischief, but best of all, a solid, loving friendship for many years to come ❤