Being a pet lover, I think it is part of the normal flow of life to have a “fur baby” for years before transition to the real, human kind of baby. I know in my twenties, a lot of good friends had dogs or cats that they coddled like their children, self included.
When I was 22 years old, I scooped up an adorable toy Pom. She was about 6 months old when I got her, and fully fluffed has never surpassed 4 LBS 2 OZ in weight. She was my ride or die for years!
I took her everywhere with me. If I was getting ready to walk out the door she would jump into my handbag (or beach bag, golf bag, whatever bag she saw) because she knew that was almost a guarantee that she would get to come with. She thought she was a person. People would joke that they would watch my girlfriends and I have conversations, and my little dog was staring at us and following with her intent little face like she was part of the girl talk happening. She slept in my bed, she came to work with me, she went to bars with me… she was my little home slice.
About half way into being 28, I found out I was pregnant (SURPRISE!!!!). Of course we had all the normal things to worry about in regards to becoming a parent, but getting the dog to transition well was high on my list. My dog had never been around kids before, but I had a strong hunch that she would be jealous and had potential to lash out. She tended to get nervous and snippy around kids, which of course made me uneasy. When we were young, we had a family friend who was bit by a small dog and it almost severed her entire top lip… so I fully understood the importance of dog safety with a baby, even if the dog was small.
I tried to prep her by letting her sit in my kid’s future nursery, or sit in the baby car seat. It’s not like she was a child who I could talk to about her “little sister” on the way, so I figured I would see how things went when baby arrived and go from there. But, I knew she could tell something was going on.
Let me tell you that things went like total SHIT. We got home from the hospital and my dog lost her mind. When I placed baby down in her bassinet, my dog would jump and try to bite her through the mesh. If I was holding baby on the couch and my dog was near, she would snap and growl. I was trying to get them used to each other, but just having a C-Section I was in a lot of pain and not very quick to react and eventually couldn’t handle the situation anymore. My girlfriend who also has a pom offered to watch my dog for a few weeks while I recovered to give me a break.
My poor dog. The whole time with this friend she just sulked and hid. After about a week and a half I was doing much better and was capable of managing a fussy newborn and a butt-hurt dog at the same time, so she came back. I had to be SO cautious… I did my best to keep them around each other so my dog could acclimate, but I had to be sure to not turn my head for a second because things could surely go south quickly.
You can see in the picture above that she was not reacting well to my daughter sweetly trying to pet her, but would tolerate her at a little distance. I tried to give them lots of supervised play time where my daughter could learn to gently pet the dog, and the dog could learn that the baby was part of the family and was not going to cause her harm.
Not only was there aggression, but my dog developed a passion for protest pooping. She would purposely go into the nursery and poop in there while my daughter was napping. She would poop next to her baby toys left on the floor knowing there was a 50/50 chance my kid would pick one up and eat it. She is a vindictive little shitter for sure.
Luckily, at around 18-20 months, we turned a bit of a corner. I think it was perhaps because my daughter was now acting more like a kid instead of a baby. She talks like a person instead of baby babble, she walks instead of crawls, so her more human/adult traits are helping, but now at 2 years old we still aren’t there, and I honestly don’t think we will ever be quite honestly. I feel quite badly that I don’t think my dog is fully happy with her life anymore, but I will always keep trying to help her fit into our new style of life as a family.
If you are preparing for the same type of transition, or are struggling with this currently, here is the only advice I can offer you:
- Create lots of calm supervised time for them to interact and play with each other. Make sure your kid is calm, and if their behavior escalates, end the play time so that the dog’s anxiety is not raised. Ending the play time because of bad behavior on the kid’s part also teaches your child it is not okay to treat your pet badly (no hitting, pulling hair, screaming, etc.)
- NEVER leave them unsupervised. Not even across the room where you can see them but not intervene if something were to happen. EVER.
- Still include your pet in all the things you used to. I know she is just a dog, but if she could talk she would tell you how angry she is that she got left behind on a few of our family camping trips the first year. Taking her to the store with me (just like we used to), bringing her on family vacations and making her a part of family functions has helped her behavior some. Of course managing a high-maintenance pet and a little baby at the same time is tough, but you can do it and your pet will react to being included better than being left behind.
- Crate time. We now call her crate her ‘old lady condo’. If she needs a break from kiddo, she knows she can escape by heading to her crate for a nap. She also now sleeps locked in her crate at night, and that helps A LOT with managing the protest pooping.
- Don’t give up on your pet. I can’t tell you how many times I told my husband I wanted to get rid of our dog, and in the thick of the struggle I meant it. For a while I thought I might even be doing the dog a favor to place her in a home without kids because she would have one on one attention and would be happier. My husband was adamant that no one would be happier if we went that route, and that we just need to keep working on fitting her in. It is not the pet’s fault you had a kid, and you can make this work.
The ASPCA has some great resources on their website on how to help make this transition and you can read up on it HERE.
I know a lot of families who have gone through this, and many who had better outcomes than we have. So, I wish you the best of luck in your transition, and hope that fur baby finds it in their heart to forgive you for dethroning them as only ‘child’! HAHA!