It’s a Dog’s Life: Adding Children to a Pets-Only Home
As future parents-in-training, many folks think that they’ve got much of the parenting thing figured out when they see their happy, tail-wagging best friend meet them at the door each evening. And, there is no doubt that owning a pet (we’re going to focus on dogs, to keep things simple) does promote self-sacrifice and service to another, which parenting requires in abundance. However (spoiler alert), the needs of that much loved fur-baby don’t hold a candle to the emotions, time, and energy that will be invested in the actual baby when that little blessing comes home. Believe it or not, this really surprises some parents. And poor Fido ends up being “banished” outside or dropped off at a shelter, sometimes never to find a home again.
Now, of course, most dogs are just fine outside, with the exception of the itty bitty ones. But, if their entire existence has been primarily indoors, then trying to maintain that indoor status quo helps the dog remain the pleasure to the family that he’s always been. Dr. Amy Burns, DVM is the owner of and veterinarian at Sullivan Animal Hospital in Jackson. She says one of her biggest frustrations is when animals are up-ended when Baby comes home. As a busy mom of two adorable girls, she knows that making the adjustment from a pets-no-kids home to a pets-AND-kids home is significant. But with some forethought, it is totally doable for the majority of families.
She advises that “a dog’s world is all about smells. Think about how much space their nose takes up on their head! It has been published that a dog’s sense of smell is anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 times greater than ours. So, a little prep work should be done before Baby comes home.” One thing parents can do is to maintain the dog’s routine. It helps him to deal with the changes that he senses with Mom, due to her evolving hormones, patterns, and behavior. Another suggestion is to put out the baby equipment like cribs, basinets, playpens, etc., so the pup can get used to it all. Take the post-bath baby lotion and put some on a doll, then wrap it up in a blanket and lay it down in places that the baby will eventually be. The more that’s done to gently expand the dog’s world to include the baby’s world, the better the dog will fit into the expanded family that’s being created.
In Dr. Burns’ opinion, all dogs should be on flea and tick control, to remove this issue as a possible reason to get rid of a family pet, since it’s easier to prevent the bugs than to remove them after the fact. Getting the doctor’s advice is important and she says “the products that have the best efficacy these days are oral meds, which also removes the worry of having the pesticide come in contact with your kids. Don’t let the bugs get ahead of you!”
When in the pre-baby years, if adopting or purchasing a dog, it’s good to consider that not every dog is right for every home. If children are part of the long-range plans, then consult with a veterinarian who can advise on breeds that are good for children. Animal shelter workers and those who are fostering animals are also great sources of info as to whether or not particular, adoptable dogs are good with kids. Trust their opinion! Just because a dog is fill-in-the-blank doesn’t equal a child friendly animal. If, however, you are currently pregnant, Dr. Burns advises strongly that “now is not the time to get a puppy. When I was pregnant, I wanted every pup that came in the clinic! It’s just hormones. Wait until the time is right for you and everyone else in the family.” Lastly, just accept “free time” is about to all but disappear once Baby comes home, and getting rid of a pet won’t bring a significant portion of that free time back. Hang in there and eventually the logistics of having Pet and Baby will get figured out.
While there are plenty of studies done that show the myriad benefits of young children having pets, the biggest reason to have the dog is because he makes the family happier. Remember, that he’s a living creature with a personality, quirks, and specific needs. So make that effort to incorporate the pup’s needs so that he can be a good family pet for Baby. It will pay off big dividends for the whole, happy family!
Leah O’Gwynn Kackley is the homeschooling mom of three in the Rez/Fannin area. She and her husband, Jason, are also the fur-parents to one who came to them as a rescue pup from the Copiah Animal Shelter!