When we got our dog in April 2007, we knew kids were in our future. We’d been married for just 7 months, but we put a lot of thought into the type of dog we wanted to be part of our future family. When we went to pick her up, we were debating between sisters Kayla and Stella. Kayla was calm, quiet and sweet. Stella was excited, rambunctious and happy. We picked Stella and she has not disappointed us yet!
For five years, she was “our baby.” Some might say she is spoiled, but she gives us so much love and affection, it is hard not to give it right back. So when we got pregnant, we knew there would be some changes. We might not get to have out nightly walks, she couldn’t run all over when she was on the leash, so had to learn not to jump up on us when we walked in the door. While it’s still a work-in-progress, there were some small changes that made a BIG difference. These are some of the ways we got her ready for baby, but there are also really good books including this one that a friend gave me. Oh, and remember not to make every change to your dog’s life all at once. Start early, do it gradually, and remember to keep on loving them – because they still love you!
Let dog check out the gear.
Stella has a pretty strong natural curiosity, so whenever we were doing ANYTHING to prep for baby, she was right there. From putting the crib together to painting the bedroom, she was under our feet. It was important to let her sniff out everything from the Moses basket we never used to the crib itself. She felt like she was part of it that way.
Keep the routine as close to the same as possible.
For us, that meant continuing to take our daily walks. Yes, they were much shorter in the beginning and typically only I or my husband went – not both. But she got her time outside with us, like she always did. After baby was asleep, we gave Stella lots of cuddle time – something she was very used to. Toward the end of my pregnancy she seemed to enjoy it less, what with all the kicking from baby and the odd shape of her formerly-flat belly pillow. She’d lie on top of me while we watched TV at night and (once I recovered from my c-section) she was able to do that still. The first 4-6 weeks were hard, I won’t lie. I was wiped out and not always in the mood to play with Stella, but it gets easier. Promise.
Introduce them before they meet.
Huh? What I mean is this – sneak out a swaddle blanket or outfit that the baby was wearing and have someone take it home to your dog before you leave the hospital. Stella stayed with my parents, so we sent home a blanket which they let Stella keep in her kennel and she slept with it for nearly two months. When we brought baby home, we let Stella take a good long sniff of her so she made the connection. No harm in that!
Changes in the rules.
Remember, start this WAY BEFORE baby arrives. That way the dog won’t “blame” the baby for all the new rules. For us this meant: no jumping on us when we walked in the door, no jumping up on the bed, no barking at every dog that walks by, no running around when on the leash (so it would get caught in the stroller), and our HARDEST rule – no licking! (I swear “no licking” will be baby’s first words!) Try making rule changes gradually, not all at once especially if you have a dog over a year old. You CAN teach your “old” dog new tricks, but it will take some time.
A final note…
I’m pretty sure Stella thought the “bald, crying puppy” was only temporary but has since realized that little baby isn’t going anywhere. They have gotten quite attached in recent months and the “no licking” rule has gotten much harder to enforce. But on a positive note, Stella’s barking doesn’t seem to bother baby at all – guess she heard enough of it in utero!
Do you have a family pet that you had to get ready for baby? What was your biggest challenge? What are you most worried about?