Man’s best friend they may be, but how will they relate to a baby? Canine temperaments vary greatly and are often swayed by factors such as breed and social history. It is common for couples to own a dog well before they ever decide to have children, which can lead to problems with the arrival of a new family member. It is important to do your research and prepare your dog for the changes which will inevitably occur with this transition.
When our three year old dog passed away just 5 months prior to our baby’s due date, we were devastated. Although we knew that it would have been hard on our dog to share us with the baby, we had been looking forward to them eventually becoming friends and growing up together. Having already decided that we needed a dog in our family, we began to search for that special puppy that would make a good baby companion.
Finally we found a breed that was good with children and met my hypo-allergenic requirements as well. I knew deep down that it was well beyond crazy to take on puppy training shortly before bringing home our newborn, but there was a dog-sized whole in our hearts to be filled, and when my parents offered to purchase the pet as a gift for us, we could not say no.
During my pregnancy, we read books and information about how to help the dog adjust to a new baby. We even let her sniff the baby clothes and really get the scent of the baby before bringing our son home. When the crucial meeting time came, we were so impressed at how our spastic puppy, turned mushy and soft around a baby. She stopped jumping, licking, and running. The dog was transfixed with the little form of a boy, and settled down beside him to cuddle.
Now with a toddler in the house, she romps and plays and they knock each other over, all in good fun. They are the best of friends. But I’m still impressed with our dog’s behavior each time she is around children and how she immediately mellows in proportion to the child’s age. Of course, she does require almost as much attention as our son, but we are glad to put the effort into both of them.
That being said, a pet owner has to do a lot more work when bringing a child home to a well-established family dog or a high maintenance puppy. Sometimes the owner will go to the extent of walking around with a fake baby in their arms for months prior to the birth, just to get the dog use to less attention. A pet owner should utilize that 40 week time period to prepare for the baby in every way, and that includes prepping their dog as well.
There are books to read, lectures to attend, or classes to take. Many parents take their pets through obedience school before having children. Some companies, such as Alaska Dog Sports, even offer specific classes for expectant parents who are dog owners. Through the Baby Smarts course a parent will learn how to manage, train and prepare their dog prior to the baby’s arrival. Perhaps it is possible for “man’s best friend” to be a baby’s best friend after all.
If you have tips or stories about dogs and babies, feel free to share.