With all of the sensationalist media reports of so-called Pit Bull attacks and proposed breed-specific legislation, it’s no surprise that I sometimes run into people who raise their brows when I tell them I have an American Pit Bull Terrier at home — and a baby. I think my own mother was a nervous wreck the entire time I was pregnant because she was convinced Axle was going to eat the baby, or at least maim her. That being said, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that the majority of the people I talk to are either indifferent or quick to say something in support of the breed. I’ve even had a few whip out their phones to show me pictures of the dog they grew up with, even if it wasn’t a Pit Bull.
While I refuse to use the term “nanny dog,” which implies that it’s okay to leave a dog alone with a child, I could see where some people might come up with that term. Axle is like a concerned old lady, hovering around all of the time. Any time my baby cries, he’s the first to respond, and then he’ll run from the bassinet to me and back again, giving me this worried look like, “Come on, do something!” He’s first on scene for diaper changes, too, which is totally typical gross dog behavior. He’s also added her to his nightly rounds. When we go to bed, he comes in the room and checks on my husband, then me, then the baby before he settles down in his bed to sleep.
When the baby is sleeping, Axle is content to lie at the door to her room or follow me around the house as I try to get caught up on housework. If dogs can display jealousy, he certainly hasn’t shown any towards the baby. He knows his status in the household and a baby coming into our lives didn’t change it. I suppose that’s because I live by the motto, “Dogs aren’t our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” I still jokingly call Axle my “first child” or “my three-year-old,” but I’ve never actually treated him like a baby. I’ve encouraged independence as well as bonding, and I think I have a more confident, well-rounded dog for it, despite traumatic events he’s experienced in the past.
We still enjoy going on walks, which are less frequent than before I was pregnant, but at least much more often than when I was in my last trimester. I suit up in my baby wrap and tuck her in before strapping a very wiggly Axle into his harness. One hand on the baby (just in case) and one wrapped up in Axle’s leash, we set off for a jaunt around the neighborhood. He takes his time, sniffing the news and leaving “Axle was here” marks. When we pass through the gauntlet (several houses in a row that have chained and/or loose dogs), Axle’s ears and tail perk up. He keeps a close eye on the other dogs, and will occasionally make a show of barking and lunging towards them if they make the mistake of coming too close. They are quick to back off, and we go on our merry way.
He has had similar reaction to company, now that we have a baby at home. He’s nothing like the dog in the viral video with the pregnant woman, though. He’s never been very comfortable around a big crowd of people, but he had learned to tolerate most of our company, and even became pals with a few. Since the arrival of our little one, however, his threshold for tolerating company has dropped to nearly zero. This is completely understandable as this is a big change that affects his entire world.
Since company extracts such a strong reaction from Axle, we usually put him outside, give him a treat, and leave the blinds open on the French doors so he can see exactly what is going on. You can bet your bottom dollar he doesn’t take his eyes off whoever is at our house until they leave! We’re working with him on this behavior by understanding and not punishing his fight-or-flight reactions to all of these changes going on in our home, his “safe zone.” By helping him associate company with good things (treats) and putting distance between him and what makes him nervous (company), we’re hoping to have more relaxed encounters in the future.
Do you have a baby and a dog? What kind of dog? Are people worried about the dog? Tell us your experience in the comments!
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About Meghan Lodge: Fits the Aquarius definition to a fault, loves animals, and is always pushing for change. Loves ink, whether it’s in tattoos, books, or writing on that pretty sheet of blank paper. Proud parent of one human child, one dog (Axle) and one cat (Toby). I’m a former quiet nerd who’s turned bubbly animal-obsessed advocate.