One of the main topics I noticed while browsing parenting forums, whilst pregnant, and whilst having a new-born baby, was in regards to dogs. Before you have a baby, if you have a dog, you are used to giving them a lot of attention and often you don’t have to think about anything else. This obviously changes when you have a baby, for lots of reasons. I myself was concerned our dog wouldn’t get the same amount of attention and would become jealous of our baby leading to issues further down the line. This worry, I found was mirrored by many other parents to be. Therefore I thought today I would write a little honest and open minded post about the issues and concerns surrounding this topic. I’ll start off with the minor, more easily fixable issues and move on to one of the biggest worries further down.
Walking our furry friends and giving them lots of love
Taking your dog a walk is one of the worries people have, a minor worry as there are plenty of ways to make sure your dog gets their walk. First off when you have a baby you are beyond knackered, especially if you have had a hard birth (with complications leading to you being especially tender) or if you have had a C-section. In the first week of our baby’s life we personally didn’t walk our dog, we got somebody else to do it, neither of us because we were both knackered. Which I think is perfectly understandable, I totally believe that you shouldn’t put pressure on yourself to do anything, but at the same time I do believe that when you buy a dog you are responsible for your dog’s wellbeing. So here are some tips:
Hire a dog walker (even if it is just for the first week) this can be expensive depending on who you choose and what services they offer, but there are a lot of people out there who do this for a reasonable price If you are looking for dog walkers, Tailster is a good place to start. This website has thousands of dog carers who offer a range of services, this includes: payment options, live photographs from your dog’s walk and you can even track where your dog walker is walking your dog (this way you know you dog is definitely being walked!) The general amount you can expect to spend seems to be between £5 -£10 depending on length of walk.
Another tip is to get one of your friends or family to do it for you, our family took turns walking our dog for us and we hired a dog walker twice when they were unavailable. This worked out better for us as our dog didn’t seem to mind at all because he loves to go a walk with my mum’s dog, so it was more of a treat for him.
Lastly sometimes it is totally unavoidable that your dog doesn’t get his walk when you have a baby, there have been times when our dog, Rufus has missed his walk, because we have been up to our eyeballs in baby issues. It doesn’t make you a bad dog owner, your dog isn’t going to suffer for a few missed walks. If you can’t get out for a walk you can always trying playing fetch in the garden a few times, get your dog a puzzle ball as these help keep them motivated and stimulated, helping them have some exercise this way, if you do have a (well-deserved) lazy day, it also makes them feel that they have had some of your attention.
Make sure when you have five minutes you have a few plays with your dog through the day and if you’re sat on the sofa let them sit by your feet. My dog used to love sitting next to me and my baby when we were having a quite few minutes watching the telly. One way to encourage a positive relationship and association between your baby and your dog is to give your dog treats while you are giving you baby attention, this enables the dog to see that, the new human is a positive thing.
Boundaries and space
Most likely you don’t want you dog in your room when your baby is co-sleeping or in a Moses basket or crib next to you. It isn’t advised to let your dog sleep in your room (more so with cats) in case they decide to snuggle very near or on top of your baby. Now I know some people would like this, but personally it was a big no-no for us. I was massively worried about SIDS generally and this was one risk I just was not willing to take.
We needed to also make sure our dog got used to not always being able to follow us around. The first steps we took towards this was while I was first pregnant. We made the bedroom a no go area to start with and encouraged Rufus (our dog) to sleep in his own bed, the way we did this was by making him a bedroom. Now I know this sounds over the top, we did not give him a whole room to himself, we actually converted the space under the stairs into a small dog house (even going as far as to paint the walls the same as Gromit’s bed room in Wallace and Gromit). We brought him a really new comfy bed and some toys for him to have in there, and he was super happy about this, he sat in his new bedroom for most of the first day wagging his tail and playing. Soon after, with us being consistent and him having a nice place to go he was no longer interested in the upstairs of our house at all. One thing I think that would have made the situation a lot easier though, would have been to install baby gates while I was pregnant, they are a fantastic way of stopping him going where I don’t want him to go.
A thread I noticed posted a lot on parenting forums was, ‘What do I do with all this dog hair.’ Before having a baby sometimes putting up with dog fluff is bearable, I was never too bothered about it but we have a super pet hair hoover and our dog doesn’t really malt. I know however other breeds do, I would advise getting a hoover that is built to cope with copious amounts of dog hair to start with.
Another point mentioned a lot by others was too research your dogs breed and the exact way they should be groomed in order to help deal with shedding. Some breeds need different brushes and techniques to ensure they malt as little as possible, I was not aware of this before I looked into it myself. If you don’t have the time to groom your dog in the specific way needed, you can always take them to a groomers, just ensure when you do the groomer has an idea about the needs of the breed of dog you have, as many a time I have taken Rufus to be groomed only to find on picking him up that they have shaved him (he is a Lakeland so he should be ‘striped‘ not shaved).
In a perfect world all dogs would have good behaviour, but just like humans no dog is perfect and some have aggressive or undesirable behaviours, some of which can become problematic when you have a baby. Aggression in particular. I know people that have had to re-home their dog because this couldn’t be corrected, I’m realistic about this and I understand that putting your baby at risk is not an option. Therefore I will touch on this very sensitive topic at the end.
My main advice here is get help, get help from a qualified professional dog behaviour specialist, these can be referred to by vets or you can find them yourself. Stick to being consistent with what they have told you to do, and try to tackle the issue before you have your baby.
If you are unsure of what your dog thinks to children it could be a good idea to babysit for a friend or have a day out with, your friend and their children (maybe a walk with them every week) to help get your pet used to little people. This is for obvious reasons a big no-no if you have an aggressive dog. In that case refer to the information above, dog behaviourist will be able to advise you on this.
Thinking about re-homing
Finally if you have tried everything but for some reason you have to think about re-homing them. This is a very sensitive issue and a lot of people can be very judgmental about this, but sometimes I understand it is necessary. If you are going through this first of all I am so sorry, I cannot imagine how you must feel. It does not make you a bad person, you are doing what is right for you, your baby and your dog. If you do have to re-home your dog, consider asking a relative or friend to have them, so you can still see them, some people do use this option as a short term solution and re-introduce your dog at a later stage (however this can be tricky and must be done with the up most sensitivity towards the dog as moving between people can cause stress for them and give them trust issues) Please research this method before doing so. If you are re-homing your dog a lot of thought needs to go into this you should be researching where the best place for them is and try to re-home them yourself to somebody you trust to look after them. One kind of half way option is Borrow My Doggy, A kind of way to have anther option and well worth investigating. As a last resort would I ever suggest dog shelters or the RSPCA as they are so over run already with animals, it is realistically probably not the best place to send them to. But if that is your only option then I will say please make sure you are happy that they will treat you dog with love and kindness (because they have the space and facilities) research where you are going to send them and make sure you are happy with it.
After all this is a really horrible decision to have to make in the first place, you don’t want to regret your choices. Although I do agree rehoming is sometimes necessary, if you buy a dog you are responsible for its life and happiness, I am a strong believer of this.
On a happier note, I hope you all manage to get on well with your future as a baby and doggy parent!