This might seem like a bit of a filler blog post but this topic is one very close to my heart.
A friend of a friend had a dog called Reggie. He was a tiny, little cream shitzu and he was her fur baby. They went everywhere together. You couldn’t go a day without seeing her posting pictures of her beloved Reggie on Facebook. Then she had a real baby and slowly but surely Reggie appeared less and less on her social media feeds. Real baby replaced the fur baby until he disappeared completely. Unable to deal with the stress of a new baby and dog, Reggie had been moved on to pastures new.
As serious dog lovers and owners of the naughtiest but most lovable Boston Terrier ever, we couldn’t fathom how someone could do that. Until it started to happen more and more. In fact, it starred to happen so frequently that whenever anyone we knew announced that they’re having a baby, we would joke about when the dog was going to get ‘Reggied’.
Then we had a baby of our own. Wow, looking after a baby is hard work. Looking after a baby and a dog is even harder. On you and your fur baby. I found the guilt overwhelming. Too tired to walk him, we overcompensated with treats. Whilst he was amazing with the baby, he was used to 100% of our attention and the jealousy crept in. He started taking her soft toys and jumping up on to us when we had her in our arms. In hindsight, he was just curious and dealing with it in his own way but 24hr breastfeeding and zero sleep had driven me to the edge and I cracked, completely losing my shit.
The final straw occurred when the dog jumped on top of our two week old baby in front of our health visitor. Racked with guilt that I was neglecting my fur baby and fraught with the stress that he could accidentally hurt our real baby, I broke down and sobbed to my husband that I thought it would be for the best for our dog to go and stay with my parents. In all fairness to my husband, he dealt with it well. Under no circumstances were we going to ‘Reggie’ our dog and as a little family of four, we were going to get through it.
Four months on, things are a lot better. I will never leave them in a room together alone (never do this- no matter how much you trust or love your dog) but the dog has learnt to be more gentle and calm around the baby.
The feeling seems to be mutual. Today, the baby smiled and reached out for the dog for the first time. She’s been staring at him but hasn’t really paid him much attention. He turned around and tried to lick her face which was covered in baby food. Gross, I know.
We’re in no way dog behaviour experts but we have picked up a few tips on dealing with a newborn and a dog along the way…
- Find a good dog walker. It’s worth the effort to do your research and find a good one. Whilst money on maternity leave is tight, paying for a dog walker has been one of our best buys. It’s saved our sanity (and probably our marriage.)
- Buy a Kong. They are absolutely revolting but we have found it to be THE best distraction for our dog. It’s epecially useful for when you are eating.
- Make sure your dog has a space or place all of its own. They need somewhere that they feel safe to retreat whilst there is so much change going on.
- Buy a baby carrier. We have a Baby Bjorn one and it turns taking the dog for a walk into a mini workout. It’s also a lot easier to deal with than a pram when you’re walking the dog alone- walking a dog and pram on your own is a skill in itself . Also make sure you carry hand sanitiser at all times.
- We ask visitors to acknowledge the dog before they acknowledge the baby. We’ve found this has helped deal nip the jealousy in the bud.
Anyone else have any good tips for dealing with kids and dogs or other pets?