My dogs were my life. Literally. And it saddens me a tad to say “was,” but nothing comes close to my love for my child. Obviously.
I thought our dogs were perfect in every way and truthfully they were, at least for the life we had pre-baby. I composed this list shortly after our daughter was born because our dogs were driving me CRAZY! I had had a particularly nerve wracking day of tripping over them and contemplating whether I was strong enough to find other homes for them. Honestly, if you know me at all you know I had to have been at wit’s end to even consider finding other homes for them, even if it was temporarily. I love those dogs so, so very much. It was with that thought though that I realized I needed to get things under control because I was hating them and they were hating life and happiness needed to be restored ASAP.
I made the following list to help expectant families prepare for life with a baby and a dog. I never happened across a list like in all the times I scoured the Internet during my pregnancy, and I so wish I had. I think it will truly help someone!
(Side note: Our dogs are relatively trained to begin with; things like “sit,” “stay,” “down,” etc. These tips may be insightful, but will need much more time and practice if your dog hasn’t had any training before.)
1. Set Expectations for Meal Time: I used to think it was so cute how excited my pup got for dinner time. He jumped around the kitchen, walking backwards and spinning, so, so happy. That was until the day he almost knocked over the highchair…with the baby in it! Now I’ve trained him to “sit” while I’m filling the food bowls and walk to the dish when it’s time to eat. (This was actually one of the easiest fixes! Dogs tend to listen pretty well when they know meal time is the result of their actions!)
2. Practice with the Stroller: I truly can’t believe this never crossed my mind while I was pregnant. Not only did the dogs need practice walking with the stroller but I needed practice walking them with the stroller! They aren’t the worst on a leash, but they definitely aren’t the best! Practicing before the baby is actually in the stroller shows you how your dog is going to react in different scenarios, like getting hit with the stroller (sorry, but let’s be honest, it’s bound to happen), passing another dog or animal while walking, stopping abruptly, etc. without endangering the baby. I also knew that there wasn’t a chance I was going to try to walk both of them at once, but that’s obviously personal preference and has to do with size of dog(s) and how well they’re already trained on a leash. It’s taken a lot of work and we’ve still got some getting used to, but the thing I’ve found most effective is just what I said – practice!
3. Teach Hand Signals: Teaching hand signals has come in handy (no pun intended!) when there’s a time I need to communicate with the dogs without be loud. The two hand signals I have taught my dogs are “come” and “wait.” There are obviously a variety of other things you could teach as well, but those two have been the most important in this household. The two hand signals I use come into play to stop the dogs from bursting into the baby’s nursery, especially when I am putting her down for a nap or at night. When the dogs come to the doorway I either put up my hand to signal “wait” and they either wait or walk away or I pat my leg or the chair to signal “come” in which they’ll enter the room and lay down for a bit. (If you’re wondering why I don’t just shut the door keep on reading…)
4. Recognize Disrupting Behaviors: I wish I had paid closer attention to all our dogs little quirks and behaviors before we brought our baby home. For example, one of our dogs will relentlessly scratch on the door if he wants to come or go. Before, he would scratch once or twice and I would let him in/out. Well now if I am occupied with the baby and I can’t get to him immediately he just keeps scratching and scratching and scratching and scratching… You get the picture! Although I haven’t found a solution to my dog’s particular issue I wish someone had told me to look out for things like this. Being able to work on it months ahead of time definitely would have helped!
5. Consider What to do When They Bark: Dogs bark sometimes, that’s just how it is. Is barking something you want your baby to get acclimated to or will it drive you crazy? Honestly, our dogs don’t bark much but because of this I feel less patient in the off times that they do. I also feel bad yelling at them because I never stopped them from doing it before. Personally, I like a stranger knocking on my door to know we have two large dogs. Their barking was also something I wanted our new baby acclimated to. Sometimes, however, it was just too much. Teach them a signal or trick beforehand, threaten crate time, put them outside, buy a bark collar. Figure out ahead of time what you think is the best solution for your family!
Alright baby & dog mamas, what would you add to the list? Would you take anything off? Let’s make the transition super easy for expectant mothers with pets!