On the day I saw that plus sign that meant we were expecting a baby, I had two major thoughts. The first was, “Oh my God! I’m going to have a baby?” The second was, “Ok, now what are we going to do with these dogs?” As far as I was concerned, babies and dogs didn’t mix. When we got our two basset hounds, Sophie and Copper, we were planning for a family in the future. What I wasn’t planning for, was feeling a strong instinct to protect my baby from everything that was “dirty” the second I knew I was expecting. This included our big, slobbery, stinky, shedding basset hounds.
As the months of my pregnancy went by I chilled out a little. My husband and I talked regularly about what our plans were for the dogs. Ultimately the answer was that we’d just do our best to make it work. The baby is most important obviously, but the dogs are a part of the family.
We read that a great way to help the dogs adjust to the new baby and be familiar with her is to bring home a blanket or an article of clothing that the baby has worn in the hospital before she comes home for the first time. So, when our parents came to visit us in the hospital we gave them the blanket she had been wrapped in. They cut the blanket in two and placed one piece in each dog’s crate for them to lie with as they slept. When we brought Lilly home from the hospital the dogs were already familiar with her scent. We let them come close to her and smell her. They took a sniff and in typical basset hound fashion went to find somewhere to lie down. One great thing about familiarizing pets and babies is that when the babies first come home they are not invading the pet’s space just yet by crawling all around them or pulling on their ears. They mostly just sleep and eat. This gives the pets plenty of time to get comfortable with the new human in the house before that little human becomes mobile and an object to play with. It also gives parents like me, who don’t want their precious little babies to be covered in dog hair and slobber, time to chill out too.
If you’re going to have baby and pets in the house together, you’re going to have to just get over a few things. Once baby becomes mobile, it’s impossible to keep them away from the pets. Conveniently enough, basset hounds are the number one breed for shedding. This means that there is a lot of dog hair around. I vacuum my house every single morning. Not vacuuming is not an option. Even with keeping the floor as clean as possible, Lilly still has a lot on her clothes by bed time. It’s not uncommon to see a hair stuck to her slobbery teething chin either. I just wipe it off, remind myself that it will not kill her and go on with my day. Also, if you have dogs, they will bark right as your fussy little one drifts off to sleep. The baby will startle awake and be unhappy because of it. You’ll have to start the process all over again. Also, your overgrown puppies will play too rough. They’ll zoom by your baby who has just learned how to sit up. They’ll knock her over and she will bump her head. You’ll rock her and soothe her and you will hate the dogs momentarily. You can count on it.
Don’t get me wrong, there are absolutely positives to having pets in the home. According to this article on WebMD, “Babies in homes with dogs have fewer colds, fewer ear infections, and need fewer antibiotics in their first year of life than babies raised in pet-free homes, Finnish researchers find.” So, my worries about having a baby with “nasty” dogs in the house might all be in vain. It might actually be an advantage to her health. This is called the hygiene hypotheses which states that exposure to allergens in the environment early in life reduces the risk of developing allergies by boosting immune system activity. Beyond the possible immune system boost, I believe that our dogs have benefited Lilly’s development too. She learned to pull up to a standing position by holding on to the rails of the doggie gate that divides the kitchen and living room. She holds onto it and pets the dogs on the other side. She squeals with excitement and loudly says “doggie”, which was one of her first few words. She laughs hysterically at them as they run and play. At almost 10 months old, the dogs are her favorite source of entertainment. Another positive is that our oldest dog, Sophie, is rather protective of her. When someone new is in our home, Sophie stays nearby. It’s as if she’s babysitting Lilly and wants to be nearby to protect her in case our guests can’t be trusted.
Regularly, my dogs drive me up the wall. When the baby is crying because she’s hungry and the dogs are patting their food bowls for a refill, it is sometimes maddening. There are many days when I do not enjoy being a pet owner. But, they are a part of this family and we are making it work. I worried about them with the baby; I no longer have that worry. They love her, and she loves them and that’s just what pets are for.