Dogs & Babies

Honey’s been invited to her first baby shower.

Her job will be to look cute and to not jump up on anyone. My job will be to make a dish to pass and pick out a gift.

And because I’m a bit of a contrarian (those of you who read me regularly are now saying sarcastically, “Noooooooo. You?”), I’ve decided not to buy a gift from the shower girl’s registry but instead get a basket of goodies to help her dogs settle in with the new baby.

Golden Retriever Puppy

Did someone say something about baby pictures?

As someone who chose not to have children, I tend to overestimate its difficulties. In truth, if childbirth and rearing were as difficult as I assume them to be, the streets would be littered with the bodies of parents who have dropped dead from stress and exhaustion. But people manage to raise children and work and play so it must not be quite as hard as I think it is.

Even so, why add puppy problems to sleep deprivation and creating a new routine around the baby?

Prepare Your Dog for the New Baby

I found some good resources last year in a post by Dr. Marty Becker on Pet Connection. One that was particularly interesting is the program Dogs & Storks, developed by Jennifer Shyrock, a dog behaviorist consultant with 4 children, 4 dogs, and 5 cats.

In her work with local shelters, Ms. Shyrock dealt with families fearful about a dog’s reaction to a new baby looking to rehome him (the dog, not the baby). She developed a program that includes licensing dog professionals to offer presentations throughout the country on preparing your dog for a good transition. Her website also has some excellent articles to download and baby sound CDs to play for your dog before the baby is born.

Collecting Gift Ideas

I’ll be assembling my gift this weekend. Beside including a baby sound CD and some reading material, I thought I’d buy a few Kong toys that can be stuffed and frozen with goodies so the dogs associate the baby with good things and have something to occupy them when necessary.

I’ll have to buy something that is actually for the baby–maybe a stuffed dog toy to stay with the theme?

Are there any parents with dogs reading this? What did you find worked for introducing your baby and dog? Was the transition smooth? Did you rely on baby sound CDs or introducing new smells to your dogs?

I know this is a long shot. The reason many of us have time to blog about our dogs is because we’re not raising children. But any help is gratefully received.

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  1. I’m afraid the only experience I’ve had (by association) was with Georgia’s first boyfriend, Monty. He didn’t do well when the baby came (the 1st in family) and unfortunately, was eventually rehomed. I did some research at that point, and from what I can gather, the work to get the dog used to baby has to start early, during the pregnancy. When the baby comes, it’s often too late (depending on the dog of course) :(

    Frozen treats? Sounds interesting and just what we need right now. HOT.

    • Yep I think you’re right that starting the introduction process from the womb is crucial. That’s why I chose this for a shower present instead of a new baby gift.

      I hope Monty ended up in a happy home.

      And I just have to ask–you are such a nice person. Don’t you know how painful it is to get reminders of the beach and hot days when it’s so cold and snowy up here in the North? :)

      Just kidding. Keep it coming. I will live vicariously through you and Georgia until summer arrives here.

      • But sweetie, that’s exactly why I love rubbing sand into all my northern hemisphere blogger friends. Hehe. Your turn will come soon enough. I already feel a nip in the mornings. That means it’s probably about 17degreesC. We’re very spoilt.

        Monty IS in a happy home, last we heard. I wrote a post about him here
        in case you want to read it! We were asked if we would take him, but he’s a big ridgeback, a fearful dog, timid with Rufus and our house is TINY. Sad. His owners were so in love with him too. I always wondered why they didn’t prepare better. Ah well. At least they found him a happy new home.

  2. Important subject. We thought we were in the clear as Kenzo grew up with our first granddaughter and he is crazy about her. We were so wrong … with the arrival of a new granddaughter, Kenzo is not amused. We have a lot of reading up to do.

    Great idea with the gift not to pick from the list but help the dog and the baby!

    • I wonder what’s different with the new grandbaby? Maybe it’s just being a little bit older and less tolerant of babies in general? Or maybe Kenzo is just choosy about who he gives his affections. I’d love to hear about what you’re doing with him to improve his comfort with your new granddaughter.

      Oh, and congratulations!

  3. I get very sad when people give up their pets when they start having children. Shelter directors hear these sad stories a lot. Love your dog/baby pet idea.

    • I can’t fault someone for rehoming a dog if the dog’s response means their child could be in danger. Besides the risk to the child, if a dog bites, his life is in danger as well.

      Finding a new, happy home for a dog might be the best decision. But I certainly wish more families would do their preparation ahead of time to decrease the stress on everyone when introducing a new family member to a dog.

      BTW, your story about the clever marketing to get two dogs adopted was my first tweet from S_Wagging.

  4. Pamela – I LOVE your shower idea – how thoughtful! Having friends who have babies come over during the pregnancy so the dogs can get used to the idea is helpful. When the baby is born, have Mama send a baby blanket or onsie home to the pups while she and Baby are still at the hospital. In “dog” that is equal to meeting the baby, and always seems to ease the transition to having a new family member!

    • That’s interesting, Dr Finch. Sending the blankie home I mean. I must remember that :)

    • Thanks for the good suggestions. I’m putting together a written tip sheet based on what I’ve found online as well as including an instruction DVD from Dogs & Storks.

      Hopefully my friend and her family will be able to make the best start.

  5. Your shower idea is great, as is your topic. My cranky point of view is that people who raise children without a pet in the house are raising children who may never understand that non-human animals think and feel, that they’re sentient beings. They never learn empathy and compassion for the larger world. Our dog, who had never been around children, had no problems when the baby came (years ago) because we introduced them and took care not to make the dog jealous.

    Found you on Blog Hop & like your blog!

    • I agree that having animals in the house can be great for children. But my cranky point of view is that parents who are not themselves animal lovers should never get them to teach their kids something. It’s not fair to the kid and it’s certainly not fair to the pet.

      It’s great that you had such a positive transition when your baby came along.

      Loved meeting Alanis over at your blog, BTW.

  6. Really enjoyed your post. I agree that it is so sad and unnecessary when people give up their pets when a baby is added to the family mix. So important to be around animals growing up.

  7. I think a lot of people overthink how hard it will be to add a baby with a dog. I guess it depends on the dog, though, and perhaps the baby. I can see rehoming a dog if you have a baby who ends up with some serious health issues that you have to devote all your time to, but otherwise, I think dogs are pretty accepting. I think if you let the dog have a good sniff of the new baby when you bring it home, things tend to be alright. I think when people get really tense about the dog being around the baby, that’s when problems start to crop up.

    • You are definitely right that our tension can create a lot of the problems we’re trying to avoid. People think babies are more fragile than they actually are and treat them like hothouse flowers. Actually a bit of dog slobber is good for their immune systems.

      I can see some dogs having a big problem with the new noises and smells. I know my dog Agatha would not have liked having a baby in the house while Christie probably would have been fine with it.

  8. I love this post. We’re choosing not to have children (something our parents wish weren’t true) and we too are amazed the streets aren’t littered with the bodies of kiddo parents.

    Your gift basket is a fabulous idea. We always remember our friends and family’s dogs when we give gifts. The dogs are always much more fun to buy for. :)

  9. The only baby in the house is Jersey. The first time a friend brought over a baby that was old enough to crawl on the floor, Jersey ran upstairs and hid in her crate. I’m not sure why but I can only imagine what was going on in her head. “It smells like a human but walks around like me! What *is* this creature!!” After a few hours, all was okay and now she doesn’t give kids a second thought.

    I love your baby shower idea! I’m pretty sure that no one will be thinking about the dogs, so your prezzie will be welcomed :) it’s kind of like bringing a present for the first child so they don’t feel left out of the festivities.

  10. I hope, Lori and Karen, that the shower girl doesn’t think I’m only bringing present for the dogs. I’m really trying to think of this as giving something that’s going to make her life much easier in the end.

    Shower girl has two pibble mixes that she’s devoted to. I suspect that when the baby comes along, at least some well-meaning friends will try to tell her the dogs should go for the sake of the baby.

  11. Excellent post! I don’t think there is enough planning and preparing one can do and I think your gift was extremely thoughtful!

    So often I imagine the dog gets forgotten when a new baby arrives. The dog who used to be the centre of attention, was played with several times a day, who got to sleep on the bed, and had the run of the house, all of a sudden finds all the rules have changed. It must be very hard. Shiva takes up so much of my time I don’t know how I could fit in a baby too.

    I hope you and Honey have a great time. And I hope your friend’s dog finds the transition just a bit easier now.

  12. When pregnant with my oldest son, I had a rottweiler (Boo!) and everyone else felt that I would have problems introducing them to each other, while I wasn’t actually too worried. When the big day came and I was still in the hospital, we made sure to put my son’s newborn hat with his new baby smell on it in a bag and my mother took it home for the dog to smell – I don’t know if that really helped or not but our dog was great with him from the time he came home until they both got older. And this was a dog that I had since I was a little girl and was around children, so maybe that helped as well? I think it’s sad that someone would give their dog up when they’re going to have children, without even giving them the chance :(