Owning a dog changes life with a new baby. Here’s nine ways how …
Our dog gets a bit neglected on this blog. I don’t know why. Our original, ‘hairy baby’, the two-year-old Keeshond is as much part of our life as our newer human baby.
Anyone who has a dog(s) as well as a baby in the house may be able to sympathise with these ways it changes the whole parenting experience.
1. You’re rarely alone with your baby
Dogs are desperate to be part of the family, and to have the whole pack together. If I’m at home with dog and DamBaby, everywhere I go with her – the dog follows. If I take DamBaby upstairs for a nappy change, I can hear the scamper of paws right behind. If I put her down on her activity mat, a furry head appears right besides hers. In the morning, the four of us are quite often on the bed together. Someone’s going to say something critical about setting boundaries here. I get it. But we love our family of four. There are moments, though, when I would like the hairy stalker to give me a moment of time with the baby.
2. Travelling anywhere is even more of a faff
Our drive home for Christmas was madness. Discussions went back and forth over the best logistics in order to get two adults, a baby, a dog and about 20 bags of everyone’s stuff and presents into a car. The result? The dog sat in the front like a princess and I was relegated to the back, squeezed in the middle between our suitcases.
3. You can watch your baby’s relationship with the dog change as they grow
At first, our baby paid almost no attention to the dog. I don’t know if she was aware of her presence until she was 3-ish months. But now it’s evolving at pace. They stare at each other. DamBaby has started to reach out and touch the dog’s face. And grab at her fur. In return, the dog is absolutely desperate to lick her face, which we don’t allow (we do at least have some boundaries. Who knows what a dog’s been eating?). It’s beautiful to see their relationship change. I can imagine the two of them touring the house when DamBaby starts walking, thick as thieves. But I can also imagine her crossing a line and hitting the dog in the face out of curiosity. So, I keep a very careful eye on them at all times.
4. You’re far less obsessed with cleanliness
Even when DamBaby was a newborn, I’d find myself removing stray dog hairs from her face. In light of that, there’s no point as a dog owner being too obsessive about your baby’s contact with dirt and germs. We like to think we’re helping our baby build a strong immune system.
5. You’re forced to leave the house, in all weather
It’s one thing to keep yourself and a baby cooped up all day because it’s raining. But try doing that to a dog. So, come rain, snow, hail … we’re all to be found in the local park every day. I’m thankful for it. Wet weather walks can be the best sort, if you just look at them a different way.
6. You’ll realise baby toys and dog toys look remarkably similar
Particularly to the dog. The worst are baby toys that make a squeaking sound. They’re guaranteed to bring the dog running, convinced it’s playtime for her too.
7. You’ll pretend the dog is a tiny horse
All parents with dogs try popping their little ones onto their dog’s back. I don’t know why. Well, I do know why. It’s very funny.
8. As soon as your baby can sit in a high chair, your dog will circle like a shark
No need for a hoover when you’ve got a dog. They sense the remotest possibility of food being dropped and snaffled by them. Our baby is only just sitting in a high chair and purees are of no real interest to the dog. But I’ve seen two-year olds actively feeding our dog from their high chair. It’s a win:win – the baby doesn’t have to eat food they don’t like, plus they find it hilarious when the dog eats it. It’s not so wonderful for the frustrated parents though.
9. You’ll be asked how the dog gets on with the baby almost as much as how the baby is doing
There’s a serious reason for this. Most people I know have had fantastic experiences when a baby came into a house with a dog. But this isn’t true 100% of the time. We have done everything we can to make the dog/baby relationship work – a little, I guess, like if it was an older sibling. We introduced the baby gently, getting the dog used to her smell. We make time for the dog so she knows she’s not forgotten. We interact with the dog and baby together. But, inevitably, our relationship with our dog has changed. Sometimes I’m short with the dog when she’s barking / walking all over the baby’s things / interrupting play time. I guess for some dogs, this change makes them resent the baby. Very worst case, I know families who have had to re-home their dog, as it was just too jealous. It’s terrible, but it’s a better option than the dog harming the baby. We’re lucky that our dog is a total softy that adores our baby. But we don’t take that for granted – especially now the baby is more active. You have to always be a little bit on your guard. But, I guess that’s just being a parent.