Oh, Slate. Did you really just publish an article by a new parent who lamented she had a dog before her baby arrived? Did this writer tell other would-be parents to have either a dog or a child but not both? I know you actually did this because I read it.
The writer of this article complained that she didn’t have time for her newborn and her faithful dog. Hmmmmmm. While I give her props for not dumping her pet at the shelter when it became inconvenient in her life, as countless people opt to do, she does write that she neglected her dog’s needs. In my book, that’s a shame and I feel sorry for her dog.
I know, I know. I never had children (by design) but as a dog trainer, I’ve worked with numerous dog owners who diligently honored the commitment they had to their dogs even as little humans started popping up here and there. They realized that they chose to bring a dog into their lives pre-kids and that they had a responsibility to that dog. I like these kinds of adults and the decisions they make. I wish there were more of this kind of parent out there. We’d see a lot fewer “inconvenient” dogs dumped at shelters across the country.
I’ve also watched friends who had dogs and then babies keep both engaged, learning, and happy. How, you ask? Here is what these wise parents have to say:
You made a commitment when you brought a dog into your life. That animal has a short life span and a commitment is just that: You committed yourself to another living being. You do not get a “Just Pass Go” free card simply because a child shows up (do we need to discuss how children come about? Hint: it is not actually a stork. You participate in the behavior that creates a baby, you see?).
You adjust to the new human in your life but you don’t throw the dog out with the baby bath water. You TRAIN the dog to adjust to his new life as well. Dogs need to adapt, too. Help them to do so. God gave you both the thumbs and the larger brain so use your abilities and train your dog. It’s not difficult.
Get help if you need help, meaning hire a dog walker or a backyard poop patrol or whatever you need to do to honor the commitment you made. Board the dog in a good kennel where it will get walks and play time (if appropriate for your dog) for that first, sleepless weeks of parenthood.
Dogs can be phenomenal friends for your child as the child grows up –- provided you (the adult!) teach the child and the dog appropriate boundaries. News tip: No dog enjoys his ears or tail being pulled. Do not let it happen.
Get help from family and friends with your new bundle of joy. Motherhood IS the toughest job on the planet, so reach out when you need a moment. Take many such moments and walk your dog. If you are an alone Mommie, invest in a stroller and you, the dog and the baby walk together. Better yet, ask the man who created 50 percent of your new baby to start walking the dog.
If you can’t commit to both a dog AND a toddler -– please -– have no more children. Your attention will be divided between two walking, talking, diaper-pooping humans. You have already given up being able to handle a dog plus one infant, so two babies are too much for you. Your baby-making card is revoked.
If your dog reacts strongly to the new bundle of joy in all of your lives, hire a professional, positive reinforcement trainer to help ALL of you adjust. More than likely, you will be on the path to family bliss in just a few lessons.
If you truly have a dangerous situation on your hands where the dog acts as though she wants to bite your new baby, then, Houston, we have a serious problem. Call a trainer even faster than you would in a non-biting situation. Obviously you cannot permit a dog to bite a baby. You also cannot dump a biting dog onto a rescue organization. You COULD perhaps rehome such a dog into a home with adult children or no children if that is advised by a professional trainer. In other words, you are responsible for finding your pet a better home than the one you can provide for it.
The following words from real-life, new Mommies makes me want to hug them and the new parents like them. They say what I cannot because I do not have children, but I do now how to honor my commitments. I hope her words will inspire you to do the adult thing and honor yours as well:
“I handled my infant and my dog like any mother does, with patience and persistence. Bringing home a baby to introduce to our dog was overwhelming, but manageable. The dog seemed obviously stressed about the new baby (to be honest, who ISN’T stressed with a new baby in the house?!). The research I did led me to be very open with my baby around the dog. I did not shield her from the baby, I let her be curious, as long as she was gentle. The dog was absolutely wonderful with the baby, after the initial shock of “what the hell is this thing?” wore off. I trusted my dog, and wanted her to feel like she was important, even if her mom had this screaming thing attached to her 23 hours a day. I swear my dog now believes that this baby is HER baby! They crawl around together, and the baby loves her puppy.”
Of course this mother supervises her dog and her baby at all times. So should you.
Here’s another story:
“Everybody had a schedule: the dogs and the babies. In the evenings, my husband would take care of the kids, usually bringing them outside with us, while I trained the dogs. If he wasn’t available, I would bring the kids outside in their play saucers while I worked with the dogs. After the kids were in bed, I would groom them. I think that makes a big difference, if it is something that you have to work out, you work it out. I sent the baby blanket home the day before we came home so the dogs could get familiar with it, and then my husband carried the baby in so I could greet the dogs without worrying about the baby. We never kept them apart if we were home, so the dogs immediately accepted them as part of the family.”
“What kind of dog owner are you? Some people would give their dog up if it inconvenienced them enough. Some people view their dogs as ‘just a dog.’ Others consider their dogs as part of their families, and love them with no restrictions. It depends on who you are, and how you view your dog. It depends on your trust of your dog (and by all means my dog is not highly trained, nor is she a saint) but do you really TRUST them. If the answer is yes, then you research ways to make your dog comfortable, and you spend the time and energy to make it work. Giving up my dog was never an option, so we moved on to the next step. Biggest advice I have, after you make the decision that your dog stays as a part of your family, is to be kind and loving all the way around. If you love your dog, and you love your baby, the transition will be easy. Set up healthy boundaries. The relationship between your dog and your baby will fill your heart fill with more love than you thought possible.”
Do you have kids and dogs? What has the experience been like? Do you regret your decision to get a dog after you had your kids? Let us know in the comments!
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