Puppies and Babies... because why not?
Puppies and babies are two of my favorite things. That new baby or new puppy smell gets me every time. They are both so squishy and lovable. But…would I want to welcome a puppy and baby into my family at the same time, umm, that’s a huge no from me. That would be a good way to ensure I would get postpartum anxiety.
When I had my first child a little over ten years ago, we had two 60 pound German Wirehair Pointers. They were our fur babies. We adopted them from shelters as older dogs, one was 10 and one was 4 when we got them so they were potty trained and pretty calm, nothing like getting a puppy. My life revolved around them. We lived in Bozeman which is surrounded by mountains with beautiful hiking trails. My schedule was work and hike. I took the dogs on a hiking trail for a couple of hours, nearly everyday. Then I gave birth to Ella. She was born in the freestanding Bozeman Birth Center so within a couple of hours of her birth, we went home. Our friends offered to take our dogs while I was in labor. Once I got home I realized I couldn’t be responsible for a baby AND two dogs quite yet so I asked them to keep them for a couple of days while we adjusted. The other hard part of our situation was my daughter was born in December on the coldest day of the year. We just had a huge snowstorm and my midwife had a hard time getting down our street to do our 24 hour postpartum in-home checkup.
We lived in an upstairs condo with no fenced yard so I couldn’t just let our dogs outside or tie them up to go out. I had to physically go outside with them and hold their leashes. My husband was on winter break from grad-school but he would need to go back soon. So, here I was, trying to figure out how to walk two dogs, multiple times a day, in freezing temps while taking care of a newborn. Picture me with a newborn in a baby carrier on my chest trying to bend over to pick up poop from two huge dogs. Oh, also, we were not wealthy. I was staying home with Ella and my husband was a grad-student. So, there wasn’t any extra money for dog sitters or dog walkers. We were literally living dollar to dollar. Somehow we figured it out but it was challenging. I realize now that having those dogs that needed daily exercise is what might have saved me from going stir crazy. They got me out into the fresh air daily and I stayed active. I know I wouldn’t have left the house if it was just me and my baby in freezing temps.
The dogs, thankfully, didn’t have any trouble accepting Ella into our pack. Bringing a baby into your home can be a hard adjustment for a dog that has been a part of your family for a while. Going from being the center of attention to not being noticed can be really hard for a dog. It can help to bring something that smells like your baby into your home first like a piece of clothing the baby wore or a burp cloth so the dog can get used to the new smell. This doesn’t work so well if you have a homebirth or birth center birth where you go home right away like we did. Make sure to take it slow introducing your dog to your baby. You never know how the dog will act. Never leave your baby alone with your dog, even if you think you dog would never hurt the baby, you just never know.
You can also practice going for walks with a stroller or baby carrier with your dog before you give birth. This will help you both get used to doing so, so it’s not so overwhelming the first time you try it with your newborn baby. You can train your dog to stay out of the nursery or areas where your baby will be while you are pregnant so those boundaries are set before giving birth.
Don’t wait until your baby comes home to change your dog’s routine. Set those boundaries and practice life with a baby and a dog before you give birth. Even playing videos of babies making noise and crying can be helpful.
A lot of people have meal trains set up after giving birth. Part of that meal-train routine could be that when someone brings a meal, they take your dog for a walk or to the dog park to get some energy out. Think of ways to get your dog some attention from others so he/she doesn’t feel so neglected, especially during that first month when you probably won’t have energy to give to your fur baby.
If you are thinking about getting a puppy around the time you have a baby, I would suggest holding off a while. I know having a puppy and a baby in pictures would be the cutest thing ever but cleaning up poop of a baby and a puppy at the same time sounds like a nightmare to me. They will both be up at night crying and pooping. You will already lose enough sleep with just a baby, if you add a puppy you might never sleep again. Not to mention the chewing! Your new baby stuff could get chewed up or pooped on. Just weigh the pros and cons before making a long term commitment like a puppy, especially if it’s around the time you are welcoming a new baby into your family.
It took me until my kids were 6 & 8 to feel ready to welcome another dog into our home. I needed a few years where I wasn’t cleaning up anyone else’s poop and I was getting uninterrupted sleep. We love having our dog around now, especially since there are four of us to split the dog duties and we have a fenced yard. Our kids begged us for a dog for a few years before we finally felt ready and it was sweeter for all of us to wait until the right time and the right dog to come along.