Our Plans for Life with Dogs and a Baby

by Lara on June 6, 2012

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:

Tips from The Humane Society

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.

Life Thereafter

  • 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?

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa June 6, 2012 at 11:08 am

Great tips! I’m looking forward to seeing how it works for you.

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Heather Eats Almond Butter June 6, 2012 at 12:42 pm

You sound very well prepared Lara! The only thing we did was to send home the hat they put on Summer immediately after she was born for the dogs to sniff. My brother took it over to the house, and they literally played with for over a year. It was a ratty mess, but I could not bear to throw it out…and now I’m sitting her wondering what on earth happened to it. Anyway, we have a lot of friends with kids and our dogs had always been really well behaved around little ones. So, when we brought home the baby we had no issues…except for maybe a chewed pacifier or two. I think Lulu and Pippa are going to be fine, but yes, exercise is key. Chris tries to walk to the dogs twice a day, which makes my life at home with them much easier!

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Lara June 6, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Hehe…it’s probably buried in the yard or under a couch cushion ;) It’s great that everyone adjusted so well in your house…I am hoping for the same!

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Carey Marley June 6, 2012 at 2:09 pm

The only thing I’d add to this extensive and very sensible plan is to put some likely baby toys out and don’t allow the dogs to play with them. Make sure they know the leave command and you should be good to go!

Cx

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Lara June 6, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Thanks Carey! That’s a great idea with the toys. What do you think about letting the dogs in the nursery (when we’re in there to supervise, of course)?

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Rebekah June 6, 2012 at 2:28 pm

We had a bit of a tough go with our dog – she’s a shepherd mix who was used to nightly walks and being the “baby”. As much as we tried not to make things change – they did. Our dog started going to the bathroom in the house to get attention, and stealing our baby’s toys. We had to pull her crate out to re-set her – which worked, and we put up a baby gate to prevent her from getting to the baby’s toys when we’re not around. As the baby gets older though – he loves petting her and playing with her so I think things are returning to normal for her.

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Lara June 6, 2012 at 3:18 pm

It’s good to hear that she is slowly adjusting. I’m curious to see how our dogs too, as they’re also used to being the babies!

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saysskippy June 6, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Wow, that is a million more times than we’ve done :) We’re going to ask Ryan’s parents to take Ryder when we go to the hospital and they’re always good about walking him/ tiring him out. Then we plan to have him sniff a blanket she was wrapped up in and that’s about all…Geez I feel like an underachiever! But he seems to be happy when he’s around babies so hopefully it will all work out. One thing is for sure- we won’t leave him alone with the baby

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Lara June 6, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Knowing Ryder and from what you’ve told me, I don’t think as much preparation is remotely necessary! He’s such a good boy <3

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Lara June 6, 2012 at 4:43 pm

…remembering when you guys visited for dinner, I’d be more worried if you were giving birth to a baguette ;)

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saysskippy June 6, 2012 at 10:22 pm

The boy does love food- he takes after his mama in that way :) While it’s true he’s not exactly vicious, playing some baby crying noises and doing a few of the tips you have suggested above can only be a good thing- I think it’s awesome you’re being so prepared!

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Carey June 7, 2012 at 12:15 am

We allow Tilly in the nursery, but it’s very much personal choice. I can see no reason why not, and if they’re used to being allowed to go in any rooms they want, I would probably not change that.

Like I say though, very much personal choice…..

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Jordan @ Bake Write Sleep June 7, 2012 at 9:06 am

I just started reading your blog, not too long ago, as I’m sure you know =P And I just had a mini freak out and had to go read your “All About Me” section because I thought you lived in my city – You don’t. Boooooo.

My (future) MIL owns a dog grooming company and my fiancee called me one day to come see the cutest puppy everrrrrr (a few months ago) and her name was Pippa and that’s about how big she would be now. And on top of that, I have a picture of me holding her and pretty much babying her, so I would have been super excited if it was your puppy. hahaha. Like “Look how much we babied your baby!”

Butttt apparently a lot of poodles get named Pippa =P

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Lara June 8, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Hehe…I guess the name Pippa is growing in popularity lately! :)

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Ruby June 8, 2012 at 5:45 am

Ohh great prep! I’m not sure about the sleeping on your bed thing… but then again, they’re your dogs! And you know what they say: it’s easier to allow a dog to do something than to reverse it. So, you could always leave the nursery off limits for now and see how it goes when the little guy gets here. I love that you’re doing a brush-up course, I’m sure that will be very helpful!

My tips:
- Also give the dogs attention whilst you’re holding the baby – that way they don’t associated the baby being there as being the reason they don’t get attention.
- Try to remember kids can’t be good dog friends until they’re about 5-7 years old! So once junior starts scooting about, toddling, etc, really make sure that you assume the dogs are like… say pittbulls. Explanation: We have an english bulldog we adopted when he was 1,5 yrs old. Everyone kept asking us “aren’t you worried?” (coz he’s scary looking & did get into fights w/ other dogs). He has been AWESOME with Amber, but the one thing I’ve always stuck in my head is a trainer who said “One thing you always here from people who’s child got nipped/bitten, is “But he’s always been such a sweet dog! He’d allow the kids to do anything!”". Dogs don’t speak kid0language and kids don’t speak dog-language. So when a dog walks away from a child, he’s saying “please leave me alone, I don’t like that”. if the kid follows him, the dog may growl, or walk away again. Nipping is another type of normal warning (for a dog!) that enough is enough, but unfortunately it is often at child-face height and the “nip” can be very strong. Once the trust is broken it really is very hard to win it back. (I know this sounds intense, but if you do watch videos in YouTube of “ohhh kiddy sleeping/cuddling/riding with the doggy” it is shocking to see how many dogs are showing warning signs. Not all of them, but quite a few!)

- Be on the lookout for acting like they’re trying to gain status over your son (may happen later – also around 1 yr old). You can very easily nip it in the bud, that’s what we did as well.

That’s it really!

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Lara June 8, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Thanks Ruby!

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Megan March 11, 2013 at 5:46 pm

It’s unfortunate that you are suggesting to assume the dogs are like pit bulls for the baby’s safety. It’s very unfair to discriminate against a dog based on its breed. In fact, tests by the American Temperament Testing Society show that collies, toy poodles, or beagles are all more aggressive than the pit bull breeds. ANY dog can be dangerous, not just pitbulls. Yes, some pit bulls are agressive. So are some Laboradors and poodles.

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Lara March 11, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Hi Megan, Where do I mention pit bulls? I absolutely agree that breed discrimination is ignorant and unfair. I mention size as an issue because I believe it is relevant when discussing the physical limitations and abilities of a dog (with regard to jumping, for example), which I think is important to be aware of. I think equal caution should be taken with babies around any size or breed of dog.

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Ruby March 12, 2013 at 1:10 am

Weird reply… I didn’t get that vibe from you either, Lara! Maybe she meant my comment? But I didn’t either… size does matter when it comes to damage and physical ability, like you said, but I agree all dogs can bite/nip.

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Carys March 28, 2013 at 9:31 am

I assume it is to you Ruby, as you said to assume the dogs are like pitbulls when they are around an infant/child. Which to me read ‘assume the dogs are a vicious breed and don’t let the child annoy them too much’. I have a yorkie, chorkie and a staff..the most vicious? The yorkie, closely followed by the chorkie. You made a good point about children not understanding dog limits and signs, but this was completely made redundant (in my opinion) by your stereotyping of pitbulls.
Excellent post Lara, you’ve made quite the preparation and some great advice.

Ruby March 28, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Okay, I understand it came across as stereotyping pitbulls, which I normally would not do, as you may have noticed we have a bulldog so we know quite a bit about these breeds.

The thing I was saying is that people often think of aggressive dogs in stereotypes: pitbulls, rottweilers, dobermans – and assume that the cute little chihuahua or the “good old dependable” golden retriever they have are by nature going to not be a problem around babies and kids.

Deb (SmoothieGirlEatsToo) June 13, 2012 at 9:25 pm

I think it’s fabulous that you are sooo prepared and that you love your furbabies this much to go the extra mile or 10 to ensure that everyone is happy. I think that you’re right that they sense moods and if you’re tense, they’ll know. I also love that you don’t plan to leave your son alone til he’s 30 lol.!

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Patty July 3, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Such a great post, not unlike posts when adding a new baby to an older sibling’s life! Thank you for sharing all of your tips :)

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Dawn February 21, 2013 at 9:21 am

I’m 5 months away from my first baby (second child). My dog is my baby :)

The day I purchase a carseat, I am also getting a fake baby to strap in it, and train my dog to steer clear of it. I have also repeatedly started playing baby crying noises for my dog to get used to. It’s not exactly the same, but it’ll get him used to the constant crying. He’s a very affectionate dog, and when I cry, he hops on my bed and licks my face to comfort me… he needs to know that he can’t do that with a baby…especially since he is 75lb’s of awesome affection!

I wont ban my dog completely from the nursery, but I might at first. Babies can show allergies towards dogs and cats that will go away over time, and I’d like for that to happen…. and my cat will be banned from the baby room (she’s a snuggler).

I totally agree that preparing your precious pooches is very important. I am part of a community of wives and parents who often get rid of their animals, or throw them outside because they didn’t prepare their pets for their incoming new additions to the family, and it breaks my heart. It isn’t fair for the dogs. Just like you would prepare an older sibling for the arrival, you need to prepare your pups!

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Lara February 21, 2013 at 9:34 am

Those are some great ideas! I really think all the prep we did made a difference :) Good luck to you, and congratulations!

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Lewis Kirkham September 15, 2014 at 4:58 am

Lara, I am so pleased that you have found my book and sounds useful and thank you for the recommendation. Best wishes for the arrival of your new baby and may Lulu, Pippa and your new baby grow up to be best of friends!
Please let me know if you have any further questions too!
Dr Lewis Kirkham
Author: Tell Your Dog You’re Pregnant: An essential guide for dog owners who are expecting a baby.

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Lara March 28, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Ruby, I know exactly what you meant. I agree that all dogs should be treated with equal caution and care. My original point was just that small dogs are a little easier to work with in terms of limiting their access to baby ;)

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