When Dogs and Newborns Collide
The New Guy In Town
You Brought Your Baby Home To Your Babies... Now What?
Before I had found out that I was expecting, my Zoey climbed up into bed with me and lay as if she were guarding my stomach. My husband and I had only begun trying to get pregnant and I didn't expect it to happen after only a few months. In between making Christmas cookies, Zoey kept following me around as if she were protecting me from something or trying to tell me something. I caved in, and casually took a pregnancy test not thinking anything of it. After the allotted time, I stared at the test as if I were insane. My husband just came home and I was able to see his excited face when he saw the news. It seemed as if Zoey was in the know and made sure I was too. After that both dogs were as cautious as could be around me, even poor Tank tried as clumsy as he was. (He wasn't as successful, but half his charm is he's a lovable klutz.)
My husband and I were immediately worried. The dogs were great to our older son, so my concern wasn't how they would handle a child. I did have two concerns though: 1) they were our "babies" for 2 years and they were treated as such; and 2) they were never around babies before, and Tank is a little slow to warm up to people. I figured we would figure it out, and we read practically every bit of advice that we could on the topic to make the transition as smooth as possible. I wasn't expecting what happened when we all settled in together.
The first week, Zoey would bark every time the baby would cry just in case we didn't hear. Tank, would howl every time the baby would cry and hide under the table as if the baby's crying terrified him. Eventually Tank stopped howling, but Zoey would always come get me if I wasn't in the same room as the crying baby to let me know. Zoey acted as if the baby wasn't her owner, but her own puppy. I'm not going to lie, watching her play mommy to the baby almost made me sad I had her spayed.
Then the baby started to move, and the dogs' lives went downhill. He chases after them, squealing in delight. (To put this in perspective: both dogs are Maltese/Shih Tzu mix. Tank is 17lbs and Zoey is 12lbs. The baby is at least 29" standing and 17lbs. He towers over them.) They run from him though Zoey gets in "play position" as if he were a dog she wanted to play with. Tank would bark and run away and hide where he could. When the baby falls down, Zoey runs to him and licks him and looks like she's making sure the baby is fine. Even at night, she lays next to his crib instead of on the bed with us like she's his sole protector. These moments make me feel like everything will be all right with them.
Maybe it's our fault for spoiling the dogs like we did before the baby. It's hard, especially with little dogs, not to treat them like little humans. Though, if you've had a dog before, you know they all act a little bit human and you can't help but to ignore the fact that they are still bark and pooping little dog machines. Finding the balance between the baby and your pets are much like finding the groove when you're introducing a new sibling into your child's life. Once you find it though, there's an incredible feeling of love when you see your happy family. (Fur-babies included.)
Bringing the Baby Home.
With all that said, here's some advice that I read about "Introducing your baby to your pets". I'm going to share with you the information that I thought was the most useful and helped make bringing the baby home as much as a success as something like that can be.
- Start training early. I read that if you spoil your dogs and give them complete and undivided attention, that you need to redirect that. They need to learn that just because the world doesn't revolve around them, it doesn't mean they are any less loved. Make sure you still give them attention, just not so much you coddle them like babies. Also, now's a great time to teach them not to just jump on your lap whenever they want. You're not going to want a dog, claws and everything, jumping on your newborn. Teach them they can come up when invited, and not whenever they want. Also. setting up the baby's toys and gear will help the dogs get used to the new stuff before you have a baby in it. Teaching the dog not to go in the crib or playpen is easier before there's a baby that needs to go in it.
- The Blanket Trick. I'm not entirely sure how well this one works, but I tried this as well. I brought a blanket to the hospital to be used on the baby to pick up the baby's scent. When my parents and son visited me, I made sure they brought the blanket to the dogs so they had a few days to know what was coming. This introduced the scent of your baby to your dogs, so they can be introduced to the newest member of the family. Consider it like the blanket is the butt they need to sniff to get accustomed to the new addition.
- Enter the house first, and without the baby. The reasoning on this seems simple: the dogs will associate the baby with taking you away from them. If you enter first and allow the dogs to greet you, they'll show how much they love and missed you. Have someone else bring in the baby for you while the reunion is ongoing. Then after that, you can introduce them to their new "sibling".
- Keep on loving them. This seems like the most important one: keep loving them. Make time for them, though I know it's hard to juggle children and your fur-babies. For example: at night, I let Zoey cuddle with me before bed and focus solely on talking to her and petting her. Anytime is precious for them.
With proper training before the baby's arrival, you won't have to make a choice to keep the dogs or not. Though it's hard, keep at it; it'll be worth it when everyone gets along together.