I’ve always talked myself out of writing this post since I am NO expert on babies or dogs. After having several requests and questions about welcoming a baby into a dog friendly family, I decided to write our experience and how we handled bringing Carter home.
First, allow me to give a little background. When we rescued Toby, he was young. He was a very obedient pup in the beginning, as he would walk next to Jake and I easily without a leash and was easy to crate and potty train. Like most crate trained dogs, he loved his crate. We would find that when he was ready to go to bed, he would just walk in the crate and snuggle into his blankets. Once we felt that he wasn’t going to hurt himself or ruin anything, we allowed Toby to come and go on the main level of our house leaving the crate door open always. The upstairs bedrooms were off limits
which I am sure he secretly broke when we weren’t home. Toby liked to chew as a pup, but he only ruined one household item (I count this as a huge WIN!). Once he got a little older, (still in the puppy stage) he started playfully jumping on everyone who came up to greet him and didn’t listen as well off the leash. Toby seems to listen to Jake more than he listens to me, so Jake had a better experience with this than I did. I’m clearly the weaker link. Toby has always loved children and has been around our nieces, nephews and neighborhood children since the first day we brought him home. Overall, he has always been a sweet, well behaved pup. We never took him to any formal training.
Now that we have that covered…
We were SO excited to find out that we were expecting in March 2012. We had almost had Toby for a year at that point. Like most expecting mothers (and dads), I felt a million different emotions and googled EVERYTHING
and that was just on the day we found out we were expecting. One of my biggest concerns was how would Toby do with our new baby?! I knew he was great with kids and was very protective, but this baby wasn’t going to be leaving our house after a couple hours. Would he be jealous? Would he mad that we were turning his world upside down?
During my pregnancy, Toby became even more attached to me than he had been (Good sign, right!?). During the last part of my pregnancy, I was placed on bed rest (
definitely not as glorious as it sounds). I found that Toby would sneak up and lay at the end of bed. Remember…Toby was only allowed downstairs, but we made an exception because this was too sweet to say “no”. I had read several useful tips that I had planned to use. One of these tips we planned to use was to send a worn onesie or used blanket home with a relative so Toby could learn Carter’s scent. Unfortunately, pure exhaustion of giving birth zapped my brain and I forgot to send one home.
While in the hospital, we had out-of-town relatives staying with us, which worked out well since someone was there to stay with Toby and keep him busy. Although having someone stay at your house may not be ideal during this time, I would highly recommend keeping your pup at home and having someone come over to keep them busy. This keeps them in their comfort zone with all the changes that are happening around them. Once we got home, we made sure to greet Toby first and allowed him to smell Carter and start to figure him out; he never left his side that first day and every day after.
Balancing it all isn’t easy, allow your friends and family to help you! Forget having someone make a casserole, what this new momma wanted was someone to walk the dog! It’s so great
and at times overwhelming to have friends, family and neighbors offer to help you in some way once you are home. LET THEM HELP YOU! You need this. Your child(ren) need this. Your pup needs this. There may be a few things that are difficult to do while recovering like walking the dog (especially if he/she pulls), lifting that huge bag of dog food, being able to play with your pup. Jake and I made it a priority to give Toby extra attention. I believe this helped the transition to life with a new baby a little easier seeing he hadn’t be replaced. Toby especially enjoyed extra snuggle time after Carter was in bed.
As a little guy, Carter loved tummy time and was mobile fairly early. So he began to spend a lot of time on Toby’s level. I have to admit I was nervous. I know my dog and I know he is a sweet and gentle pup, but I was so worried that if I looked away for a second he might step on Carter’s tiny hand or knock him over. So we started with a boundary, I didn’t want Toby on Carter’s blanket. This gave us a bubble of maybe a couple feet on each side of the baby. Toby learned that he was not allowed to walk on the blanket, so he would lay next to it and eventually started inching towards Carter. Guess what happen? Carter LOVED it! He started tracking Toby and seemed very curious about his furry brother.
In no time, Carter was mobile and constantly wanted to be with Toby. We had to establish some rules: no eating the dogs food, limit the dog kisses, no pulling tails/hitting, no standing on/riding Toby and making sure they both got their space when they wanted it (among other rules). Did Carter break some of these? Absolutely, but we were there to quickly intervene. After Carter first arrived, Toby was very curious and loved to lick him. This drove me a little bit crazy, however, it was his way of understanding this new little guy. We allowed the doggie kisses, but limited them to a bare minimum. Toby still sneaks in a few. We were very lucky that Carter has never been one to hit or pull hair/tails; anytime he has tried this we remove him from Toby. Carter has several books that we began reading to him early to prepare him for certain situations: Our favorites are Tails Are Not for Pulling by Elizabeth Verdick and May I Pet Your Dog?: The How-to Guide for Kids Meeting Dogs by Stephanie Calmenson.
I’ve never been one to give advice, but what I would suggest when bringing home baby is the following: Prepare yourself as much as you can. Educate your yourself and family on the stress signals that your dog may show and how experts recommend introducing your pup(s) and baby. Seek training for your pup if you are concerned about particular actions that may become a problem once there is a baby in your household. Make sure your animals are up to date on vaccinations/heart worm/flea preventive. Keep dog food, treats, meds out of reach of little hands (they are quick). Still have concerns? Schedule a visit to your vet or find a local trainer, these people will be great resources on how to handle situations that are specific to YOUR dog.
Looking back, did we do anything specifically that created this relationship? I don’t know if there was one particular thing. Did we do everything right? Absolutely not, we figured it out as we went along and tried our best. We never once considered getting “rid” of Toby since we had a baby to focus on. We had several people tell us that Toby wouldn’t work in our lives once the baby got here. I’m so glad to tell those people they were wrong. There were days it was rough in trying to find what our new normal was supposed to look like. Jake was working full time and in grad school, but was such a huge help when it came to helping me figure it out. We always made the safety of both, Carter and Toby, our top priority. Being a new parent is HARD, but incredibly worth it. I’m thankful for Google, the vets that Toby visited, our dog trainer friends and the kind strangers that made me feel like I was getting it right. Our goal in parenting these two boys will always be to keep them safe and comfortable and to continue to teach them love and respect. And to remember children mimic everything their parents do so make it worthy of being mimicked.
Did I forget something (of course I did… I’m the mother of a two-year old) or not answer your question? Tell me in the comments below.