Your dog knows you’re pregnant, it just doesn’t know how many puppies you’re going to have 🙂
Like so many young couples, before we became human parents we became dog parents. And while our baby was somewhat of a surprise, our puppy was carefully discussed and chosen. That’s not to say we knew what we were getting into when I picked up Jelly the Goldendoodle from a breeder on the way home from the wedding. Actually going from having no responsibility outside of myself to having a puppy who needed CONSTANT supervision and attention was a ruder awakening than when we had our daughter. I had never had that type of responsibility before. And although I was really nervous about how our baby and dog would do together, I’m so glad we had Jelly to shock us out of some of our post-college self-centeredness before the rest of it was stripped away with a baby.
I think the baby/dog dynamic was one of the things I was most nervous about when we were pregnant. I had no idea if our wild 1 year old puppy would behave instinctively or terrorize Leah. So I did what any responsible and concerned person would do; I googled it. Most of the feedback I saw online said some version of this: bring home a baby blanket from the hospital with your baby’s scent on it and give it to the dog to sleep with and get used to having it in his space. Say wha?? I looked at Jelly and his “blanket” which was now one long string after having been torn to shreds (despite being well loved), over many months. So, they wanted me to give my dog something that smells like my new baby and say “Here’s what your new toy smells like, do whatever you want with it! Tear it to shreds, go to town!”? I don’t think so.
Another piece of advice was to pretend a doll was your baby and wrap it in a blanket and hold it like you will your real baby. Then teach your dog boundaries. Jelly spent the entire exercise jumping up to try to get the blanket from around the baby, and lick the baby. I lasted about 2 minutes before convincing myself that Jelly just thought the doll was creepy.
So when the time came to have the baby, I was nervous but our mantra was that we will see how it goes, if we need to Jelly can take some breaks and go stay with our parents, and ultimately if he’s not behaving we will do what we have to do to keep our baby safe. The day I went into labor Jelly was really really concerned. He stayed in bed with me the whole day, gazing at me with a worried look that made my heart melt. This had to work out.
When we brought Leah home our approach was that Jelly could see and sniff the baby, but he could not touch her. I remember having Leah on the newborn pillow, she was SO TINY, and correcting Jelly every time his nose got a little too close, or his tongue started to sneak out to lick her face. We were very strict with him on this, and he quickly learned that the baby is Mom and Dad’s. We had a few times where he did lick her face, and get closer that we wanted, but for the most part this strategy worked out well for us.
His walks and park time no doubt took a hit, but we still made an effort to get out (for all of our sake) as much as possible. My life saver when it came to walking Jelly with a teeny tiny baby in tow was the Gentle Leader (our vet recommended), which helped him not to pull and jerk us around. It works by forcing his head down if he tries to pull. I still use this on every single walk. I also used the Boba wrap to go to the dog park and walk around, (and do everything else from cleaning to go to the bathroom) while he ran and ran and played and got out a lot of pent up energy, and Leah was always warm and snuggled against me, sometimes even inside of a coat.
Even though I’ve been astounded with Jelly’s patience and tolerance of Leah we still recognize that he is a DOG. And you always need to be careful when you have a child around a dog. Mike sees dog bites on kids all the time at work so he is VERY cautious, especially when our dog is around other kids he doesn’t know as well, or when Leah tries to approach a dog that doesn’t know her.
Leah’s first word was Dog. She started saying Guy (her version of Jelly) loong before she said Mama. She absolutely adores Jelly and all “‘oggies” for that matter. As she got bigger and we trusted Jelly more with her we gradually eased up on the boundaries, and now they cuddle together all the time. As I write this she is sitting under the kitchen table with Jelly playing. I am so glad that we have Jelly to teach Leah to love animals, and get us all outside more than we would otherwise. If you need more reading material on how to introduce your baby to your dog I think Cesar Millan’s approach seems to make the most sense of what I’ve seen out there.