Meet Pulga, my mommy-loving Chihuahua:
Pulga, aka Flea, is a part of our family because I insisted to my husband that we could not be sure that we could care for an infant unless we first had success caring for a dog. Perhaps a bit manipulative of me, but my husband had the last laugh. You see, I am a Pitbulls and Parolees fan, and hence wanted a Pitbull. You see what I have instead ?. That being said, by that point I was desperate for any dog at all, hence this conversation:
Yep, I’m pathetic.
Needless to say we fell quite in love. He used to snap at my husband for trying to kiss me, among other things! (He has since decided that hubby is good people too, and therefore allowed to touch momma ?)
This was all well and good until we decided to have a baby, and we realized that Pulga, being our del facto first child, might get jealous. What followed was a great deal of research that I wish to share the fruits of with you.
1. It is in your best interest to have your dog firmly trained before making the baby
You do not want to be having morning sickness and also have to be on your dog so that he becomes acclimated to some new commands. Moreover, these commands need to already be normal to your dog by the time the baby comes. The last thing you want is for the dog to be resentful of the baby because he realizes that he stopped being allowed to jump on the couch around the time mommy got fat! This brings me to my next point:
2. Set boundaries
Create a space that is reserved just for your dog, and a space that is reserved just for the baby. This way the dog does not suddenly feel excluded when the baby arrives, and he also has his own spot to retreat to when he gets overwhelmed by the noisy, stinky, tiny human that you have brought home. You traitor, you.
Pulga’s area is along our living room wall; he has his bed with a comfy blanket, his food, and a bin that he knows contains his food and winter coats. He also knows that he can run around in our guest room and play with his toys in there, but that Mommy and Daddy’s room is only for calmness/sleeping. As I got more pregnant, Pulga got really attached to me and would sleep in the bed with us snuggled up to my belly, so we have made sure to allow that when he requests it on occasion now that the baby is here to avoid jealousy. (Pulga is too small to get into our bed without Assistance, so I can choose when is appropriate for him to join us). However now he actually prefers to sleep the night through in his own bed.
Some parents may even reserve a whole room that is off limits to the dog. We couldn’t do this because our apartment is super small, and like I said, Pulga would sleep with us some nights. (Aka we’re permissive parents). If you plan on doing this, do it well in advance of the baby’s arrival to avoid making your dog jealous and to make certain he fully understands the rules before baby’s arrival. The last thing you need is a doggy training regression right when you’re recovering from pushing out a tiny human.
3. Socialize your dog with babies prior to the big day
We were lucky enough to have some friends who had a toddler while I was pregnant. We introduced Pulga to him gently at first, where I was holding Pulga and my husband was holding the baby, and we let them check each other out while giving lots of praise. This way, if things went south, we could snatch them away from each other quickly. Thankfully, Pulga took all the full palmed face pets this kid was inclined to dole out, so we moved to the next step.
On a DIFFERENT DAY we met up with baby again, started where we left off last time, and then moved everybody to the floor with nobody holding them but still close enough for emergency snatching. We gradually escalated engagement over various meet ups until we were sure of Pulga’s conduct. This put us at ease as parents and also prepared Pulga for what was in store for him.
4. Create a doggy routine that can be continued postpartum
If you just fed your human child at 4am, are you really going to want to wake up again at 5am to feed your four legged one? And walk him? If Mommy is the only person who ever walks Fido, what is Fido going to do when she is recovering from making a human? Will he feel rejected that Mommy doesn’t want to do walkies anymore? You betcha.
One way to circumvent this is to get help and to get your dog used to whoever is helping you in advance. Another way is to build a schedule that A) is conducive to postpartum recovery and B) can be executed by whichever parent is not on baby duty (i.e. One task does not belong to a specific parent).
Pulga always goes to work with my husband, so morning walkies were never an issue for us. A new part of our routine that we have actually added since Aaron’s birth is that Aaron and I will go for a mid morning walk and sit in a bench swing for a little while, and Pulga always comes to stand guard over us while we have our swing times.
Incorporating both dog and baby into a family routine helps cement the fact that although there’s a baby now, the dog still has a place in the family/pack.
5. Let him get to know your belly
Dogs know when you’re preggers. Pulga was especially in tune with my pregnancy because he worships the ground I walk on. Early on, he changed his cuddle routine from being on my chest as close to my face as possible to being against my belly. I would praise him for this and would tell him silly things about how his brother was in there. Was that necessary? Probs not. However, swatting your dog away from cuddles is the first step towards him feeling rejected. Use discretion according to your dog’s personality.
6. Send home a blanket that your baby was swaddled in
If you ask nicely, the hospital will let you do this. The nurse I asked made it sound like she wasn’t supposed to let me steal a blanket and she was just going to look the other way. Considering this is ultimately for the safety of your baby and harmony of your household, it is likely they will help you.
This is the first step in the gradual process that you are about to embark on of letting your puppy get to know your baby. This will also set the tone for how your dog might react when the actual baby is brought home.
According to my husband, Pulga became hysterically happy after smelling the blanket, wagging his tail and running around. This is definitely a preferable reaction to trying to play tug of war with the blanket or growling, so we felt much more comfortable letting Pulga get to know the baby in a similar multi step approach to what I described in bullet number 3.
This is Pulga sleeping on one of Aaron’s blankets after he came home. This behavior is actually a really positive sign. Basically it means that Pulga wants to have Aaron’s scent on him. Pulga also frequently does this with my husband’s/my laundry when he misses one of us. By doing this, Pulga is showing that he accepts Aaron as part of the ‘pack.’ Once I saw him doing this, I felt it was ok to escalate to this:
Yep, the cuteness never stops in my house!
There were several steps between point A and point B, of course. First I just had Aaron playing on his playmat while Pulga was in the room. I allowed Pulga to approach him and sniff him while giving praise, and Pulga slowly got more and more comfortable with Aaron to the point that he was attempting to cuddle him. Aaron, while awake, was not exactly the best cuddle partner because he was kicking with excitement, so I stayed really close during this time to intervene in case Pulga took offense to the kicking. Thank goodness he did not, and once Aaron fell asleep, Pulga got what I think he wanted from the moment the baby came home, which was some good ol’ baby cuddles.
In light of the above, I just want to add one more rule for ya:
7. NEVER LEAVE YOUR NEWBORN ALONE WITH YOUR DOG, THIS IS NOT PETER PAN
I know that the nanny-dog concept from Peter Pan is adorable and tempting, and I’m sure your pup is just THE CUTEST with your newborn, but please please please: never leave your newborn alone with your dog. The fact is, dogs are animals, and it doesn’t matter how good he is in front of you, he may not believe he has to have the same manners when you are not present, and you have no way of ensuring your baby’s safety if you are not there. Your dog does not know how to parent your child. All the advice I am giving you here is for the purposes of having a harmonious household, NOT so you can have a nanny-dog.
Do you have an adorable pup who is awaiting his first ever human sibling? Did you already go through this and perhaps have some extra insights to share? Leave me a comment below, I would love to hear from you!