Dogs and Newborns: Adorable or a Danger?
If there are two things in the world that get an extremely girlish "Aaaaw!" out of me, it's cute dogs and cute babies — also cute otters, but that's another article entirely. Put the two together, and I will be having cuteness convulsions (e.g., this!).Full disclosure: I have two not-so-newborn children and the cutest Pug in the universe, Blossom, so I have a history of weakness around these walking puffballs of adorableness.
But some of the newer additions to my little circle of moms have recently been asking a whole lot of questions about whether they should give away their dog before they have their first child. They are, understandably, scared that their pooch will get jealous of all the attention the new addition to the family will receive and, perhaps, even violent.
These questions became so common that I figured a lot of families out there are having this same dilemma. As someone who gave up a dog for the sake of my first baby, then kept my Pug around for the second, I got the feeling that I was uniquely qualified to address this problem and offer a few pieces of advice. To all the mixed breeds, the dog lovers and expectant mothers, here's to hoping this helps!
Bert the Great Dane and Baby No. 1
Soon after my husband and I got married, both of us dog people since birth, we decided to do a little child-rearing test run by getting a pooch of our own. It just so happened that one of our friends was moving into a small apartment in downtown Chicago soon and needed a home for his two-year-old Great Dane, Bert. We picked up Bert one Saturday , and by the time the three of us got home, we were deeply, madly in love.
Fast forward a couple of years. I was 16 weeks pregnant with my first child, and like a lot of my girlfriends now — and, probably, a lot of you out there — I was concerned about how Bert would handle a very needy new addition to the family. Keep in mind that, by this time, Bert was getting big enough to topple a small horse if he wanted to, much less a child.
Again like my girlfriends, I did some asking around and, all in all, I came away with the following responses, with some slight variations:
- Get rid of the dog. A dog that has been the center of your attention since he or she was a puppy won't know how to act around a newborn. Particularly in my case, with a massive Great Dane at home and not much backyard to speak of, a panicky dog could spell a whole heap of trouble — your first priority, of course, is to the child.
- Get rid of the dog. Forget the danger factor: Once you have a child, you just simply won't have time to devote to a canine. Heck, you'll barely have time to take care of yourself! In essence, keeping a dog around the child wouldn't be fair to the dog.
- Keep the dog. Even if you have trouble with attention problems early on, the moment you introduce your newborn to your far furrier child, it will be the beginning of a long and happy relationship your son or daughter will remember for the rest of their life. Since I personally didn't have a dog of my own growing up, this could be my chance to get it right this time.
Well, like I said up top, practicality won out and we decided to give away Bert. I was heartbroken. My husband was devastated. This was still one of the harder decisions I had to make, but at the same time, as point No. 2 said, when I was up all day and all night caring for my first child, it's hard to imagine that time with a Great Dane added to the equation.
Blossom the Pug and Baby No. 2
Fast forward again. The day my son turned three, we broke down got him the ultimate birthday present: a puppy. We scaled down quite a bit this time and got a newborn Pug, and named her Blossom. The day after that, I found out I was expecting my second child. Uh-oh.
This time, however, considering the difference in size of the dog and the fact that, from the moment they saw each other, my three-year-old and my Pug were bonded for life, there was no way we were getting rid of Blossom. It was time to face the consequences.
The Happy Ending
Maybe it's thanks to what a thoroughly lazy pup Blossom was (and is!), or maybe it's thanks to my husband and I talking but besides a few small run-ins, everything went pretty smoothly. Words of advice to new or potential mothers/dog owners:
- One huge help that my husband and I had with Blossom was that we hired a Chicago dog walker to come by once a day to help out. This gave Blossom the individual attention and exercise we didn't have time to give with a newborn in the house, and really took a giant weight off my mind.
- Listen to your dog. Our Pug would occasionally get jealous of all the care we poured into our two children, and would let us know — and, yes, her barking while we were trying to put the kids down for a nap could get pretty annoying. But if you listen to your pup and attend to his or her needs quickly, maybe letting him or her outside for a few minutes, you should be fine.
- Stop worrying and let the dog have time to bond with your child. Unless you know your dog has a history of violence, let the two of them spend some (supervised) quality time together. Dogs are always smarter than we give them credit for — once the pooch gets used to your newborn, there's nothing you can do to tear them apart!
All in all, of course, the delicate choice here is yours alone to make, and can often depend on the kind of dog you own: big or small, needy or independent, these factors can make all the difference in the world. But to those expecting mothers who are head over heels for their canine friend and are convinced there's no way out but to give the dog away, I'm here to say that you can make it work. It might be a little more work on top of a whole lot of work, but for (wo)man's best friend, I say it's worth it.