I’ve written previously on our hopes for what life will eventually be like with two small dogs and a baby. After a good amount of research, this is our initial plan for introducing Lulu and Pippa to the little one, and some general rules for their first few months together. I’m sure we’ll reevaluate things as the baby grows and the dogs’ behavior around him becomes more predictable.
For those of you who might find this information useful, here are some of the main resources we’ve consulted:
American Humane Association’s ebook, Pet Meets Baby (free)
Tell Your Dog You’re Pregnant (Book and accompanying sound downloads)
Pre-Birth Plans (As many changes as possible should be implemented gradually and before the baby arrives, so changes are not negatively associated with the baby’s arrival.)
- A brush-up on both dogs’ training with a four-week Focus & Control class with a local training school. This class emphasizes: attention & focus, improved response to cues, polite greetings (human & dogs), proper discipline, settle & relax, wait & release, and drive releases. Although Lulu has some general Puppy 101-type training, Pippa has zero formal training, and both dogs could use a refresher on all of the above.
- Desensitization to baby-related sounds and routines. This entails playing a soundtrack of baby noises at a low volume while doing a fun activity, and gradually building up the volume based on the dogs’ reactions. We will also be sure to do things like run the baby swing and go for walks with the stroller before the baby arrives. I also bought a cheap doll at Target that I’ll wrap up and sit with on the couch, to start preparing the dogs for how to behave while I nurse, etc.
- Allow the dogs to sniff and inspect all baby gear as it arrives in a calm, respectful manner. We’ve been doing this with things like the crib, the swing, and the car seat, and their reactions have been rather boring (a good thing!).
Bringing Baby Home Plans
- We’ll be sure to have our dog sitter exercise both dogs really well before we come home from the hospital. One tip said to give the dogs a long walk or park visit and have them home for 30 minutes before we arrive, so they are tired from the workout but not overly hyped from the day’s activity.
- Have our dog sitter, or potentially Matthew, introduce the baby’s scent to the dogs with a blanket or hat that the baby wore after he had been cleaned up. Encourage gentle inspection.
- As the person they are most attached to, I will come home to greet them as usual, before the baby comes into the house. Matthew (ideally a third person, really) will bring the baby in without a fuss, as if he were a bag of groceries.
- The cardinal rule of safe dog/baby living is to never leave any dog unattended with any baby. When we first heard this, I thought it would surely be a nuisance, until I realized that I have zero plans to ever leave the baby unattended until he is 30 anyway. Duh.
- We will set up a gated, comfortable corner of the house that will either be baby-free or dog-free (we’re not sure which one yet!).
- Clear separation of baby toys and dog toys. One tip suggests rotating the toys which the dogs have access to, so they are always stimulated and excited by their own toys.
- Both dogs are used to sitting in the front seat of the car, either on an empty passenger seat or on my lap if Matthew is driving, so I’m not worried about car travel since the baby will be in the backseat.
Things We Won’t Do
- At the moment, we have no plans to co-sleep with our baby, so the dogs will continue to sleep on our bed. Until the baby is in his crib, he will sleep in a bassinet in our bedroom, which the dogs cannot access. Luckily we have small dogs, who physically cannot jump inside a crib or bassinet.
- Similarly, we do not plan on banning the dogs from the couch.
- We’ve made a commitment not to let the dogs’ normal exercise routine suffer in any way, even if it means hiring a dog walker or spending money to tire them out at daycare. Tired dogs are well behaved dogs.
Things We’re Unsure Of
- Whether or not we will let the dogs in the baby’s nursery at all (even supervised), or make it an off-limits room entirely.
- Whether or not we will continue to travel by plane with the dogs. This isn’t so much a safety issue as it is a sanity one!
As the baby grows, we will teach him to respect the dogs’ personal space, especially during feeding and play time. We’ll teach him how to give the dogs a command and follow with a treat, so they see him as another authority figure in the house. Though I absolutely acknowledge that small dogs can still be a threat to a child’s safety, there is an advantage in that he will start to outgrow them much sooner than he would a big dog (heck, he could come home from the hospital weighing more than one of them!), and thus develop more of a physical authority at an earlier age.
While this transition is definitely something I take seriously, it’s also something I am trying not to stress too much about. I don’t know about babies, but dogs definitely pick up on the energy of the people around them, so if I am tense, they will be too. They have been around toddlers and kids before and basically just do their own thing. With a little preparation (the dogs were bored as hell the first time we played the baby noises; they actually fell asleep) and common sense, I think we’ll be just fine.
Moms with dogs: what are your tips for creating a safe, fun household?