Q. I’m expecting a baby soon and I’m not sure how my dog will react. Should I re-home her?
A. Welcoming a newborn into your family doesn’t mean that you have to surrender your family dog. It’s absolutely possible to enjoy a safe and harmonious life with a baby and a dog with a little preparation.
Change is stressful. And lots of change all at once is even more stressful. A stressed dog is the last thing you need when you are a sleep deprived new parent. This is often the breaking point for new parents. A stressed, anxious dog, no sleep, hormones raging and the steep learning curve of new parenthood combine to create a perfect storm that often results in people feeling they have no option but to re-home their much loved dog. And it’s a decision that causes them great pain and guilt.
So what can we do to maximise your chances of success?
Think about what will change and begin to introduce those changes gradually, in advance. Gentle change is far less stressful than overnight change. The baby itself will be a huge change for everyone so getting other changes tackled in advance will give you all some breathing space.
Introduce new things before the baby arrives. Prams, musical mobiles, baby gyms, baby chairs. Have these in your home for a few weeks prior to your baby’s due date so that by the time the baby’s here they are normal for your dog. And it also gives your dog a chance to investigate them safely while there’s no baby on the scene. Play baby noises – there are loads of recordings available on YouTube or via specialist apps. Feed your dog or offer treats while you do so to pair this weird new noise with good stuff.
Teach your dog to be happy alone for brief periods. It’s inevitable your dog will get less of your time and attention once you have a baby to care for. And there will be times when you need a dog-free zone so work on that now, not later.
Learn about your dog’s body language. Watch what interests her? Excites her? Scares her? This will give you an indications to how well – or not – she might cope with a baby.
If you already know that your dog is wary of children, or worried by new things or just generally anxious in new situations then seek professional help. It’s an investment worth making in order to reduce your own stress, help your dog feel better and arm you with a clear plan. Preparation is the key to success.
It’s important to acknowledge that not every dog will be happy in a home with children. For some dogs it is a safer and kinder option to recognise this and find a new child-free home where they can live happily. Part of being a responsible dog owner is being honest enough to see when something isn’t fix-able and make hard choices in your dog’s best interests.
A new baby certainly isn’t a reason to re-home your dog in the vast majority of cases. But success doesn’t just happen….we have to invest some time and thought into stacking the deck in our favour.