It’s no secret that I am a complete dog-nut… I adore dogs, grew up with dogs and consider them very much part of the family…
When my husband and I moved into our first house together after getting married, one the first things I wanted to do was get a puppy.
And so we did. And for a whole year Lily was my baby…
Then my other baby arrived… yes this time it was a human baby.
Lily was just one when my son was born and I was terrified of how she would react to our new arrival. Lily is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and they are generally speaking very good-natured, amicable and friendly little dogs. Lily was all of those things and more, and yet she was scared of small children. She was afraid of our nieces and nephews, who would run after her squealing with delight -
‘Doggy! Doggy!’ As they tried to pull her tail or grab her ears.
She’d run under the table for cover, as I tried to explain that she was frightened and to be gentle with her, but the message was lost and as a result Lily became quite wary of small children.
So the more pregnant I got, the more I knew I had do to some prep if this was going to work. The idea of having to give Lily away because we were going to have a baby, was never going to be on the table.
However, according to the Dogs Trust in the last 12 months, they’ve received 98 requests from expectant parents and 39 requests from parents who had just had a new baby and wanted to surrender their dogs.
It’s a staggering figure and that’s why this week they’ve been trying to highlight awareness of prepping for a baby’s arrival when you’ve got a dog in the house, with their ‘Be Dog Smart Week’ which ends today 31st August.
And prepping is the key.
We spend a huge amount of time getting things ready for a baby to arrive – the nursery, the clothes, the cot, the ante-natal classes, so why not take the same approach to your dog? Well that’s what I decided to do and thankfully the Little Dude and Lily have been best pals since birth. Honestly, to see them together would bring a tear to your eye. They adore each other and I feel completely safe with them being together.
How did I do it? Here’s my tips, plus a very helpful video from the Dogs Trust below that.
1. About midway through my pregnancy I used to Google ‘baby crying’ and play it randomly once a day so the dog could get used to the sound of a baby crying. I also let her look at and sniff all the new baby stuff, like the toys, the moses basket, the maxi-cosi (which I think she even got in at one point!) etc.
2. Once the baby was born, I sent home one of his worn baby grows and gave it to the dog. We let her sniff it, chew it and basically do whatever she wanted with it. Once the baby came home, Lily was familiar with his smell.
3. My mum took Lily for the first two weeks after I got out of hospital with the baby, just to let me find my feet; I had a bad infection and needed time to heal. I was then able to give Lily more attention and help introduce the baby properly.
4. I let Lily have a good sniff of the baby when he came home. She wasn’t really that fussed about him, but she was curious to have a sniff. Once she had checked him out, she was happy to pretty much ignore him.
5. Dogs are pack animals, so once they figure out that this baby is now part of the pack and is on the same level as the adults, then they should be happy. Dogs are keen to know and accept their place in the pack.
6. Lily pretty much ignored the baby until he was on the floor for tummy time etc. This would always peek her interest so instead of stopping her, I would let her come over and feel involved. I let her sniff him, give his hands of feet a lick and feel included, which again led to her becoming relaxed and happy.
7. The older and more active the baby got, the more he was intrigued by the dog. He was transfixed by her running around and would laugh his little face off. The more robust he got, the more they played together. I make sure to let him see me pet Lily very gently and say the word ‘gentle’ as I’m doing it, so he knows to pat her gently and never be rough with her.
8. I’m lucky that Lily is a small dog with a good temperament, with a larger dog or different temperament you may have to make more time for supervision, but having said that it does depend on the breed and nature of the dog. Above all, make sure to prep your dog in advance and make them feel included as much as you can. Never leave your dog alone with your baby, until they are older and only when you know they are both happy with each other.
9. Finally, babies and dogs make the best of friends, when introduced correctly and it is a wonderful thing for kids to grow up with pets.