Dogs + Baby = Serenity?

While Shiva and I are enjoy a long-anticipated vacation, some of our fellow bloggers kindly agreed to pinch-write for us. Heather Kalinowski is the proud mom to two fur-kids, an Italian Greyhound named Ava and a Spaniel mix named Jackson, and her baby boy, born in August. Heather spends her days writing about pets for Trupanion pet insurance and her nights playing fetch and cleaning spit up.

I considered myself a mom long before I had my baby boy. I was a mom to two fantastic dogs and they really were my ‘kids’. I took them everywhere, fed them well, bought them presents, took care of them when they were sick – you know, everything you do for your kids.

You would not believe how many people just expected, or encouraged, me to give up my dogs when I found out I was pregnant. Of course the idea to me was ludicrous, but to them it felt like I was endangering my baby by exposing him to my dogs. I received so many un-supportive comments and heard so many horror stories, that I retreated to the internet to try to find families who had positive experiences.

Isn’t the internet a wonderful thing? I found so many other new parents who felt the same way I did about my dogs and who made the transition seamlessly. I took any advice they could give to heart. We made sure to allow my dogs to sniff me during each stage of my pregnancy so they could understand the changes in their own way. We encouraged them to explore the baby’s room and all the new furniture when we got it set up. And we invited friends who had children over to expose the dogs to the new smells and sounds.

But what was most interesting to me was how the dogs started training themselves for the new arrival. My little dog, Ava, is my sweet lap dog. She was constantly attached to my hip. But as I got more and more
pregnant, she realized that things were changing and she started hanging out more with my husband, something she never did before. She would choose to cuddle up next to him on the couch since my lap was disappearing and there wasn’t as much room for her anymore. She would sleep on my husband’s side of the bed because my hormones were causing my body to overheat and I was too hot to cuddle next to anymore. It made me sad but I also knew it was best for our new situation.

When we brought our baby home I walked in first with a blanket the baby had been swaddled in at the hospital. I made sure to give them some attention and let them smell the blanket. Later, my husband walked in with the car seat. The dogs immediately ran up to the car seat to sniff it. My husband sat the car seat on the floor and we sat down with the dogs. We allowed them to sniff at the baby, but not touch him. And they did just that. They were curious, but with a few quick sniffs, they were satisfied and just wanted to celebrate the fact that we were home.

Since then, the dogs have continued to have interest in the baby, but never in an aggressive way. We always allow them to sniff him when we have him on our lap or are changing him on the floor. Because we have never made that big of deal out of their interactions with him, they have learned that it’s not a big deal and nothing to get worked up over. We know we’ll have to do another round of close supervision once the baby becomes mobile and starts being able to grab handfuls of fur… but we’ll take each new stage as it comes and continue toward our goal of a happy, well-adjusted family of five.

28 thoughts on “Dogs + Baby = Serenity?

  1. What a great post. I look forward to sharing this one with friends who have been given the same warnings about dogs and babies.

    You’ll probably be amazed at what your dogs will learn as your baby becomes more mobile.

    Although my husband plays aggressive bitey-face games with my Golden Retriever, Honey, she knows children are different. When a friend’s baby started batting her on the nose, she knew this wasn’t the same game she played with my husband at home and she stood their calmly and unaffected by the babies behavior.

    Dogs are much smarter than we give them credit for.

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    • Oh, I totally agree. Dogs are so smart and can tell a child is innocent and should be treated with care. And as long as we teach our son to have the same respect for the dogs, we should be fine,

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  2. I deliberately waited until after I was finished having kids to get a dog. I was afraid of allergies (there are some in the family), and didn’t want older kids to give up a pet due to a new sibling’s allergy. Wouldn’t do much for the sibling bond!

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  3. Congratulations w/ the baby (not sure how new he is but congrats). I think there are many many people who believe the hype that if they get pregnant the dogs/cats have to go and it’s really unfortunate because the humans had 7-8 months to work with the dog to make it work (if they had concerns about how the dog would adapt).

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  4. That makes me sad that people just assume you would “get rid of” your dogs! Over the last few years we’ve really tried to make sure to expose our dogs to kids and babies, so far so good. I guess crazy, unfortunate things can happen, but we have every intention of preparing our dogs as much as possible and making it work once our little one arrives.

    Great post!

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  5. It’s so good to read about a positive experience! You alway hear the sad stories of dogs being surrendered or re-homed because of a new arrival to the family. I’m happy to report that the people I know who have just had or are having babies (as my friends and I are about that age now) also have similarly positive stories to tell, so you’re not alone!

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  6. Such an important issue. When I was young, my parents gave away our family dog after it snapped one too many times at my baby brother. They felt like they had no choice, but looking back it was a matter of not properly training and socializing the dog even before my brother was born, not planning ahead when introducing the dog to the baby, and just generally not being informed dog owners. I really admire how you took the time to properly prepare your dogs and introduce them to your son and how you trust your pups but also take the necessary precautions to keep everyone safe. I wish that my parents had heard more stories like yours- maybe our story would have had a different ending.

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    • I think, like you said, with many of our parents it is just a matter of not being really informed. That is why I forgive my mom for allowing our family dog to have puppies. Looking back, I think, how could she do that? There are already so many unwanted dogs! But she didn’t understand the issue back then.

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  7. So great to read this! We were just having a conversation about people who banish dogs ‘to the basement’ once the kids come. I wouldn’t know what to expect, so it’s great to see the steps taken to make everyone comfortable.

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  8. Thanks so much for this post! It’s so reassuring to me. While I don’t have a dog OR a baby yet, I’m nervous about that pending interaction–esp. since so many people, as you noted, give up their dogs as soon as the baby comes home. It breaks my heart every time. It’s so comforting to know that you and your family are making it work! Keep it up.

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  9. Thanks for sharing your experience for others to learn from, and a big CONGRATS on your new addition. It is amazes how many people would think to get rid of their dog(s), without even giving them a chance. So sad. Glad you were able to find like minded people to give you good sound advice on how to introduce ALL of your kids, in the safest manner for your family. 🙂

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  10. What a great post this is!

    My daddies brother had his dogs around the baby, and they actually used to protect them! They would check on the baby when crying and watch over his crib.. They are very sweet, and it’s heartwarming to know that they are only out to look after the other family members.

    xo
    Luna

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  11. First, sorry to hear you had so many negative reactions. So glad you didn’t give up and found others who supported you. I love your no-big-deal approach. I don’t have kids, but I would think that just letting the dogs be a part of your new bundle of joy and vice versa lets things happen naturally. I like your relax manner.

    Congratulations on your baby boy. He’s going to have the best mom, dad, and furry siblings he could ever have. 🙂

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  12. Really wonderful post. I do think it’s amazing how dogs can adapt – even my Bella, who has never lived with children, takes a tender approach when one is visiting. It’s the same approach she takes with puppies – I think our dogs are much wiser than people give them credit for.

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  13. I can’t believe people thought you should give up the dogs! That’s crazy! It amazes me how many people view pets as things instead of family members. But I’m so glad they’ve adjusted well, it’s all about how you treat it and set an example, and of course you guys did a great job! 🙂

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