We know that dogs are a man's best friend. But are they a baby's best friend as well?
When our daughter Jasmine was born, we had to come up with a plan to introduce her to her furry siblings Gizmo and Pica. Like anything new we integrate into our dogs' lives, we did it slowly.
We started with a family meet and greet. We were mindful of the fact that the baby is the newcomer; our dogs have been by our side for years, even a decade. We treated our dogs with respect and gave them a pep talk about adding a new member to the family as if we were talking to an older sibling. (Sounds crazy, but, hey, they may understand something.) We started by allowing your dogs a few sniffs of new baby smell; then, a little pet on their fur. We showed them that the baby was no harm to them. Luckily we have small tame dogs, a Japanese Chin and a Pekinese.
Our first concern was actually for the dogs. We've had Gizmo now for over a decade. From day one he snuggled with us on the couch and slept in our bed. We spoiled him like a baby; having an actual baby would certainly make things tough for him. We knew we had to try to give him more attention and not forget about him when the baby arrived. Easier said than done! At first he was a little standoffish. For the first three months, he wast really getting very close to Jasmine; in fact, he became more loyal of a dog and sought out more attention from us.
Pica, our female rescue dog, was very different. She's a motherly dog who loves everything and everyone. One glimpse of Jasmine and she wanted to lick her cute little face. The issue was she didn't realize that she was double Jasmine's size and had to be very gentle with her. We had to constantly keep an eye on her so that she wouldn't sit or lick Jasmine all over! But now, as Jasmine is 6 months old, the tables have turned. Jasmine is now pulling at Pica's fur and pinching her. Everyday when she wakes up, Pica is right there by her side. She starts laughing and giggling non-stop. They have already become best friends!
A big challenge is keeping the dogs and house clean for Jasmine. Everyone wants everything sterile all the time. Not so easy with two dogs and a newborn. Luckily a little dirt has not gotten Jasmine sick as of yet.
Another challenge is to make certain that our dogs don't injure or bite our baby. As we know our dog very well, we're always on the lookout for warning signs. If there are any, you may want to keep them separate at first. If they have a predisposition to barking at kids or had a biting incident in the past then proceed with caution. Safety for both your baby and dogs comes first.
Another issue: Taking a walk with our dogs and our baby at the same time. It's pretty tricky to push a stroller and have a dog by your side. Sometimes one of our dogs may want to run or play with other dogs, which means we have to let them off leash. We end up using a baby carrier to make it a little easier and to give us more mobility. If you have a bigger dog then going to a dog park would be a good suggestion.
Here are things we did before the baby arrived thelp with the transition. It sounds funny but we played a YouTube clip of a baby crying just to get them use to the noise. We also invited all our friends and families who had babies to come over to our house. We would let the dogs sniff the baby and get used to the smell and sounds. We're not sure if this helped but no harm in trying. The more they sense something will be changing and believe me dogs know when your changing your patterns the more prepared they can be. Our dogs know every time we're going on vacation and they get angry by barking and howling at the door. We even tried to hide the luggage bags so they wouldn't find out but it never works! Also, like I mentioned earlier give them little signs that things will be changing but everything is just fine. Maybe have them sleep in the nursery or cuddle on the baby bump before the baby arrives.
The main thing to remember is that your dogs are part of your family and to try to give them as much attention as possible and to not disrupt their schedule. With some careful planning and maybe a dog walker you can grow your loving family. Start early and get your dogs introduced to your newborn as soon as possible and they will hopefully grow up to be best friends and eventually you will have your own dog walker!